Can Dogs Detect Parkinson’s?

Posted October 14, 2016 at 4:27 pm by

Savannah picks the correct sample - Contributed photo

Savan­nah picks the cor­rect sam­ple — Con­tributed photo

Local Dogs Make the Grade in Parkin­son’s Detec­tion Project

Dog train­er Lisa Holt, with a team of vol­un­teers, recent­ly com­plet­ed a pilot study designed to deter­mine whether dogs can be trained to detect Parkin­son’s Dis­ease and in doing so con­tribute to ear­ly detec­tion of a debil­i­tat­ing and cost­ly dis­ease. The answer seems to be a firm “yes”.


Vol­un­teers Nan­cy Jones and Lin­da Scribe — Con­tributed photo

What start­ed as a grass roots effort in Fri­day Har­bor and a first-of-its-kind test any­where in the world has pro­vid­ed pre­lim­i­nary evi­dence that dogs can indeed be trained to detect a Parkin­son’s Dis­ease scent. On the strength of pos­i­tive results in the pilot study, Lisa is now seek­ing fund­ing from var­i­ous orga­ni­za­tions, includ­ing the Michael J. Fox Foun­da­tion, an orga­ni­za­tion devot­ed to Parkin­son’s Dis­ease, for sup­port of a sec­ond phase that she hopes will con­firm the find­ings of the pilot study.

Using meth­ods com­mon in train­ing dogs to detect nar­cotics, explo­sives, inva­sive and non-inva­sive species, and can­cer, this pilot study involved six dogs and their train­ers. Of the six dogs, five per­formed at an 80% or high­er lev­el of cor­rect response to a sam­ple of Parkin­son’s Dis­ease and three of the dogs gave a 90% or high­er lev­el of cor­rect response. The pres­ence of L‑Dopa (a stan­dard Parkin­son’s med­ica­tion) appeared not to affect the dogs’ response lev­el. Lisa says, “There is no bet­ter detec­tion tool than a dog. By putting the dogs’ amaz­ing olfac­to­ry sys­tems to work we not only sup­port efforts to uncov­er mark­ers for Parkin­son’s but we also sup­ply infor­ma­tion to researchers, and this work may even lead researchers to look in new directions.”

Accord­ing to the Parkin­son’s Dis­ease Foun­da­tion, as many as one mil­lion Amer­i­cans live with Parkin­son’s dis­ease; approx­i­mate­ly 60,000 Amer­i­cans are diag­nosed with Parkin­son’s each year. The com­bined direct and indi­rect cost of Parkin­son’s, includ­ing treat­ment, social secu­ri­ty pay­ments, and lost income from inabil­i­ty to work, is esti­mat­ed to be near­ly $25 bil­lion per year in the Unit­ed States alone. Through ear­ly detec­tion of the dis­ease, symp­toms could be treat­ed before they become life chang­ing and life threat­en­ing. Nan­cy Jones, project co-chair whose hus­band David is a Parkin­son’s patient says, “If some­how a dog can make a diag­no­sis ear­ly, it would save peo­ple a lot of agony.”

For more infor­ma­tion or to help with the project, con­tact Nan­cy Jones at (360) 378‑8997 or Lisa Holt at San Juan Island Dog Train­ing at (360) 378 4562 or (360) 298‑5494 or on Face­book.

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Categories: Animals, Health & Wellness

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