We all know by now that dogs have a great sense of smell. We see them work wonders every single day at our train rides, airports, or at malls, where they work sniffing out drugs and explosives.
Most recently, a small study suggests that dogs can recognize a specific odor among humans during an epileptic seizure, according to a report by the National Geographic.
Yes, dogs are already trained to respond to people with epilepsy during a seizure attack, but a paper published in the Scientific Reports journal suggests that some dogs can recognize the odor of a human having an epileptic seizure.
Researchers took sweat samples from seven patients who had different types of epilepsy when they were resting, exercising or having a seizure. Those samples were placed in cans and were shown to five dogs.
Amelie Catala, the lead author of the study and a doctoral student at France’s University of Rennes, has told National Geographic that their paper invites other researchers to do future tests that could help dogs respond better or sense epileptic seizures before they even occur.
Meanwhile Kenneth Furton, a chemistry professor at Florida International University, also researched about dogs and their olfactory abilities.
According to NOVA, an award-winning science reporting website, dogs’ noses have 300 million olfactory receptors compared to only about six million in humans. This means that they could smell something 40 times better than people.
In Furton’s research, he found that a significant number of dogs can sense a seizure 15 to 45 minutes before it actually happens, which could help the person take medication to prevent it from happening or lessen its severity.
“Studies like this are important, to provide a sound scientific foundation for the true capabilities of canines sensing seizures,” has told National Geographic.
Gary Mathern, the chair for epilepsy research at the University of California, Los Angeles’s medical school, said that the study was useful, but it would not have immediate impact for training assistance dogs. He added that the “process remains difficult, expensive, and lacks uniformity.”
However, this might just lead to new approaches in studying epilepsy.