Archive for June, 2016

We Finally Know How Dogs Sniff Out Diabetes

Wednesday, June 29th, 2016

From Gizmodo

George Dvorsky

George is a contributing editor at Gizmodo and io9.

For years, assistance dogs have been used to detect low blood sugar levels in their diabetic owners and warn of an impending hypoglycemia attack. Scientists have finally figured out how dogs are able to accomplish this feat—an insight that could lead to new medical sensors.

Dogs don’t so much see the world as they do smell it. Our canine companions can detect the tiniest odor concentrations—around one part per trillion. For us, that would be like detecting a teaspoon of sugar in two Olympic sized swimming pools. This allows them to work as medical detection dogs, where they sniff out various forms of cancer and diabetes.

In the case of diabetes, specially trained dogs can tell when their owner’s blood sugar level is low—a sign of a possible hypoglycemia attack. For people with type 1 diabetes, low blood sugar can cause problems like shakiness, disorientation, and fatigue. Failure to receive a sugar boost can lead to a seizure and even unconsciousness. For some, these episodes occur suddenly and with little warning. When a diabetes detection dog senses that their owner is in trouble, they notify them by performing a predetermined task, such as barking, laying down, or putting their paw on their shoulder.

But how do these dogs know? What is it, exactly, that they’re sensing or smelling? This question has mystified scientists for years, but a new study by researchers from the Wellcome Trust-MRC Institute of Metabolic Science and the University of Cambridge has finally provided the answer.

It’s isoprene. That’s what these dogs are smelling—a common natural chemical found in human breath.

The scientists recruited eight women with type 1 diabetes, and under controlled conditions, lowered their blood sugar levels. Using mass spectrometry, they looked for specific chemical signatures to detect the presence of certain molecules. Looking at the data, the researchers found that isoprene rose significantly during hypoglycemia (the medical term for critically low blood sugar levels). In some cases, the presence of isoprene nearly doubled.

Humans are oblivious to isoprene, but the researchers figure that dogs are particularly sensitive to the chemical, and can easily tell when their owner’s breath contains too much of it. As to why the body produces more isoprene during hypoglycemia, the researchers think it’s a byproduct of cholesterol production. Still, they’re not entirely sure why this chemical rises when blood sugar gets low.

Using this knowledge, the researchers would like to develop a medical sensor that does the same thing as diabetes sniffing dogs. What’s more, a handy breath device could replace the current finger prick test, which is inconvenient, painful, and relatively expensive.

It’s important that we don’t overstate some of the purported abilities of medical detection dogs. They seem to be pretty good at detecting certain cancers (e.g. urological cancers and breast cancer) and diabetes, but many of these accounts are anecdotal, and much of the research tied to these canine abilities is still in early stages. Claims that dogs can sniff out lung cancer, colorectal cancer, and even Parkinson’s Disease are still under investigation and are far from proven.

Still, it’s an exciting line of medical research that, like this recent study, could lead to new scientific insights and powerful new medical technologies.

Angel Fund Teams Up With Clinic to Save Pit Bull Named Mitch

Tuesday, June 28th, 2016

MitchOne morning in March last year, as Ruben Gonzalez walked out into his Inglewood yard to get into his car, he saw that something was wrong with Mitch, his Pit Bull.

“He wasn’t himself. He started vomiting. And he was real stiff,” Ruben said. “Normally, he plays around the yard with my other dog, Brandy. And as soon as I step into my yard, he normally runs toward me. On that day, he just was not himself. He wouldn’t budge. So I put him in my car and drove to the emergency hospital. It was 7 o’clock in the morning and I was real concerned.”

Later that morning, Ruben and Mitch were at the Family Pet Clinic in Redondo Beach, a hospital with which he and his wife, Jennifer, have had a long relationship. Dr. Kimberly Daffner soon discovered that Mitch had a blockage – a piece of wood that was lodged in the duodenum. The doctor surgically removed the wood, Ruben said, “but Mitch was still throwing up and wasn’t recovering the way they expected so they did another surgery and removed a wad of grass from his stomach.”

Dr. Daffner told Ruben that Mitch needed to be neutered.  He also needed dental work, including pulling an infected tooth. “I told her I didn’t have the money to say yes, as much as I wanted to.  And she said, ‘You know something? We’ll work it out.’

“I was really strapped for cash,” Ruben said. “I was on disability leave because I had gotten hurt at work [he is a painter]. My CareCredit card was pretty much maxed out because of bills when my cat had gotten sick and died a couple of months earlier. My wife’s CareCredit, same thing.  And she was the only one who was working. The last thing I wanted to do was to put my dog down. But I didn’t have the money to cover the bill. I was hoping to make monthly payments but they told me they don’t really do that.”

The staff at the clinic suggested Angel Fund.  Ruben applied and was granted $500. The hospital contributed $1,800. He is grateful to Angel Fund and to the people at the Family Pet Clinic. “Everyone was great,” he said. “They went above and beyond for my family and my dog.” One technician – Erica, he said – took Mitch home with her to keep an eye on the dog for a couple of days when Ruben couldn’t do it.

Today Mitch, at five or six years old, is very much the dog he used to be, Ruben said. “He’s running around, doing great, enjoying life.” Ruben checks the yard daily for objects that a dog might want to chew.  He is working full time now but has a long commute. Wife Jennifer works in the fashion industry. The family includes her two daughters from a previous marriage, 17-year-old Rosemary and Mia, 11.

“I take Mitch and Brandy to the clinic about once a month, now, and Mitch always knows exactly where he is going,” Ruben said.  “As soon as we pull into the driveway, his tail is wagging.  As soon as I open the door, he jumps out of the car and can’t wait to get inside.  Everyone gives him a big greeting.  He loves it.

“I am so thankful to Dr. Daffner and everyone in the office. Without them, I’m pretty sure my dog wouldn’t have made it.”

Freako the Iguana Has Bladder Stones Removed

Saturday, June 25th, 2016

Freako Up CloseThanks to Dr. Zambrano of Zambrano Consulting Mobile Service for applying for an Angel Fund Grant.

The grant helped the Carlson family afford surgery to remove bladder stones from their pet Iguana, Freako.

Get well soon, Freako

 

Attacked by 3 Dogs, Lucy Is Rescued by Angel Fund

Saturday, June 18th, 2016

 

May AF LucyA week and a half before Christmas in 2014, Mary Parmer and her son Bill were in her Apple Valley home when there was a sudden eruption of noise outside – barking, snarling and shrieking.

They quickly investigated and discovered their two small dogs – a Corgi mix named Lucy and a Chihuahua mix named Lady under attack by three large dogs in the yard next door.

Before the three large dogs, including a Boxer mix and a Pit Bull mix, could be chased away from the smaller dogs, Lady was dead and Lucy had suffered severe lacerations.

“We didn’t have a car here, so Bill ran to a neighbor’s house and asked them to take us to the vet.  Lucy was ripped open in several places. She had surgery and was in [Bear Valley Animal] hospital several days, then she came home. But she had to go back for more surgery a week later. And she had to go back for more treatment after that.”

Mary is a retired widow who worked part-time for 25 years at Victor Valley College and Bill had been laid off from a maintenance job there so there was little money to pay Lucy’s bills.  The hospital suggested Angel Fund, which stepped in with $500, a sum matched by the hospital. Mary is grateful for the assistance that saved her pet’s life. A daughter helped her with subsequent veterinary bills.

Lucy still shows signs of the trauma she suffered.  Now about two years old, “she has good days and bad days and every now and then you can tell that her wounds still bother her,” Mary said. “She has trouble jumping. She is usually a very active dog and sometimes she gets real still and doesn’t have much energy.”

Before the attacks, Lucy slept on her bed, Mary said.  Since Lucy could not jump up on the bed during her recovery, Mary made herself a bed on the floor and slept there with Lucy for a few weeks after her surgery.

For a long time after the attacks, Mary said, Lucy would go out in the yard and look for Lady. “She missed her so much.  So we went out and got her another pal. They have a great time together.” The new dog is Crystal, also a Chihuahua mix.

Lucy came to Mary’s house originally when a friend found her at the side of the road not far away.  “She couldn’t keep her so we took her in. We checked with animal control and people in the neighborhood but no one claimed her.” That was about six months before the attack by the neighbor’s dogs.

The two yards are separated by a wooden fence. “I don’t know how our dogs got into their yard. I think the big dogs dragged them through the fence,” Mary said. The three large dogs still live next door, although all is now peaceful.

Thank You Mocha and Paisley

Thursday, June 9th, 2016

There comes a time when every handler knows that it’s time to retire their Pet Partner.  It is a very difficult decision to make but, for whatever reason a good handler knows their dog and understands when it’s time

We want to thank Mocha and Paisley for giving love to others over the years and wish them both lazy happy days ahead.

And, special thanks to Mocha’s partners Rita and Don Tayenaka and Pailsey’s mom Laurel Schuman for sharing their wonderful furry family members with so many!

Both teams, however, have another dog they are training to continue in their older siblings’ work.

Soon we hope we will be welcoming Higbee Tayenaka and Cooper Schuman into our AHF Pet Partners family, knowing they both will continue to bring tons of smiles where their siblings left off!
Mocha

Paisley2                            MOCHA                                                                                                  PAILSEY

 

Meet newest Pet Partner Team Member – Zoe Lanni

Sunday, June 5th, 2016

Zoe LanniBirthday: October 11, 2010
Weight: 3.7 lbs
Nickname: World’s Tiniest Goat!
She likes all types of food, including
Brussels sprouts! Zoe loves to be
snuggled and curl up in my lap. She
travels with us everywhere by bicycle,
car, train and airplane! When we
are packing, she sits in my suitcase,
ensuring that she is going too! Her
favorite places to be rubbed are behind
her neck and her belly.