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Doctor Dog? Canines Can Smell Parkinson’s Disease


Trained dogs, with their remarkable sense of smell, have shown the ability to detect Parkinson’s disease with a stunning accuracy rate of nearly 90 percent. This discovery paves the way for an affordable and effective diagnostic method that could enable earlier treatment for sufferers of this condition. Individuals with Parkinson’s have unique chemicals in their sebum. According to researchers, these chemicals could offer a potential diagnostic avenue given the lack of a definitive test for the disease.

Research shows dogs smell Parkinson’s disease with nearly 90 percent accuracy

Dogs possess olfactory capabilities vastly superior to humans, potentially up to 100,000 times more acute. Their prowess in sniffing out diseases such as various cancers, COVID-19, and malaria has been documented before. Common breeds for such detection work include Labrador Retrievers and various Shepherd dogs, usually trained in specialized centers.

In a novel approach, Lisa Holt and Samuel Johnston from PADs for Parkinson’s in Washington state conducted a study with 23 pet dogs of 16 different breeds — per New Scientist. This diverse canine group comprised breeds traditionally used to detect medical conditions and those not typically associated with such tasks, like Pomeranians and English Mastiffs.

Participants, both those diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and healthy volunteers, provided sebum samples for the study. The dogs went through a rigorous training program, learning to signal the detection of Parkinson’s scent through specific actions. Remarkably, the dogs were able to identify the disease with an 86% success rate, ignoring samples from healthy participants 89% of the time.

While this study demonstrates the feasibility of using a broad range of domestic dogs for the detection of diseases, further research is necessary to identify the most effective breeds for this purpose. Nonetheless, the success of this diverse canine group underscores the potential of using pet dogs for medical scent detection, opening new avenues in non-invasive disease diagnostics.


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