a cute  chihuahua on a blanket with a mask on

American culture is fascinated with the notion of superheroes. Superman, Batman and the like have been branded into our consciousness since we were children. What about Superdog? I have never heard of him, but he should have been invented. As it turns out, humans aren’t the only ones that can have supernatural abilities. Let’s take a look at some examples of dogs that have shown up to save the day.

Dogs That Can Detect Cancer

There was a study conducted in 2011 to determine how accurate dogs could detect colon cancer. It was found that all 5 dogs that were in the study had the ability to detect cancer in 98% of the patients. The dogs were trained to smell breath, urine or stool samples, collected in plastic tubes. Some would bark at the sample, some would paw it and some would lay down with the breath samples of people that had cancer.
Ted Gansler, from the American Cancer Society explains that tissues which are malignant with cancer release chemicals that are distinctively different from healthy tissue. He says that he is not surprised that dogs can pick up on these differences.

One case that made headlines occurred in San Anselmo, California with a lady named Nancy Best and her dog named Mia. It all started when Nancy was laying on the sofa one day. Mia pounced on top of her, burying her nose in her right breast. Over the following three days, Mia did this same thing to Nancy, pressing her nose against one specific spot on her breast. Nancy felt this spot carefully and noticed a lump was there. She went to her doctor and it was found that she had Stage II breast cancer. Nancy had surgery and chemotherapy after this and her life was saved. Nancy believes that she is alive today because of her dog Mia.

Dogs That Can Predict Seizures

It turns out that some service dogs can be an epileptic’s best friend. Some dogs have the ability to know when their owner is about to have a seizure. They warn them by starting to lick the person or paw at them. Some dogs even try to tug the owner to the ground, to get them to lie down. Neurologist Joseph Sirven explains this phenomenon. He says that dogs may be picking up on a scent change or perhaps they are able to detect an electrical signal or subtle behavioral change.

Known as seizure alert dogs, the canines that are used for this purpose most frequently include Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds and Border Collie crosses. Jennifer Arnold of Canine Assistants in Georgia says that unfortunately there is no way to train dogs to predict seizures, they must develop this skill on their own. Nevertheless, she says that about 9 out of 10 service dogs she has placed for seizure patients have been able to do this for their owners within a year or so.

Search and Rescue Dogs

Did you know that dogs have 215 million more odor-sensitive cells in their nose than humans do? This makes some dogs a perfect candidate for becoming search and rescue dogs. You may wonder how these dogs are able to pick up a scent of a person, even when they are a mile away. Here’s how it works. Humans are constantly giving off microscopic particles which contain that person’s specific scent. Millions of these scent particles become airborne, and the wind is able to carry them far away. Search and rescue dogs are trained to recognize these particles and quickly lead their trainers to the person.

Pair this sense of smell with a keen sense of hearing and you will understand why search and rescue dogs truly have superpowers. They find lost children, hikers or hunters or Alzheimer’s patients who have wandered away. They also are used to discover the remains of homicide victims. They have the ability to detect someone’s whereabouts even in the dark or in the water. Dogs most commonly chosen for search and rescue work include German Shepherds, Bloodhounds, Labradors, Golden Retrievers, Rottweilers and Giant Schnauzers. These dog breeds are commonly selected due to their endurance, intelligence and their ability to be trained.

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