Ever since our ancient ancestors first domesticated the dog, we have suspected our canine companions of possessing strange, healing powers.
According to one old wives’ tale from Greece, for instance, if you were about to choke on a bone you should let an unweaned puppy give you the kiss of life. (Unless it was a fishbone, in which case you should apply an unweaned kitten.) Modern science, however, has discovered more tangible evidence of the dog’s powers to heal.
There is, for instance, a growing body of evidence to suggest that dogs can detect cancer. In one study, dogs were found to be able to detect lung, breast and other cancers with an accuracy rate of between 88 and 97 per cent. By contrast, hospital scanners are reckoned to have an accuracy of between only 85 and 90 per cent.
Dogs also seem to have the ability to sense when a person is going to have an epileptic fit. A study conducted in Canada, found that dogs who lived with children prone to epileptic fits behaved oddly before the attacks. Some dogs would lick the child’s face, for instance. Others would act protectively, in one case leading a young girl away from a set of stairs moments before she had an attack. The warnings came as early as five hours in advance.
Health experts are now training “seizure alert” or “seizure response” dogs, some of which can predict fits.
No one has yet explained how the dog does this. While some scientists argue they detect scent or behavioural clues, others think they can pick up on telltale electrical activity in humans.
For more odd and interesting scientific facts about man’s best friend you should read ‘Play It Again Tom: Curious Truths About Cats And Dogs’ by Augustus Brown.