A Maryland woman is crediting her dog with having discovered her lung cancer soon enough for the disease to still be combated effectively.
Halethorpe resident Anne Wills, aged 53, is the founder and coordinator of Dogs Finding Dogs, a nonprofit organization which assists owners in retrieving lost pets, thanks to dogs especially trained for search and rescue operations.
The highly specialized team of canine detectives has also been successful in assisting police in tracking missing persons and burglars, but now it looks like one dog in this group has one extra accomplishment to be praised for.
Back in February, Wills’ pet dog Heidi, which had previously assisted in saving 2,000 pets throughout a period of 7 years, began behaving erratically, constantly impeding her owner from leaving her seated position.
The 9-year old canine friend, who is a German sheprador (a mix between a German shepherd and a Golden Labrador retriever), also appeared to be extremely alarmed, breathing heavily and grazing the woman’s arm.
The relentless and disturbing gestures unfolded across a whole week, after which they escalated even further for a period stretching several more weeks.
Heidi would frequently seem to be in the midst of a panic attack, constantly seeking her owner’s attention. She would also repeatedly hide her muzzle in Wills’ chest, while panting excessively.
Eventually, the NGO leader decided that she should take her dog to a veterinary clinic, fearing that a medical problem was to blame for all those strange symptoms.
However, upon examining the German sheprador, doctors identified nothing suspicious, which prompted Wills to think that in fact her pet had sensed something terribly wrong with her.
That is how the woman decided to have a full medical checkup, during which a CT scan revealed the presence of 3 malignant nodules on her lungs.
Luckily, the cancer was in its early stages, and Wills was able to receive medical care straight away, under the guidance of Dr. Enser Cole, chief of Medical Oncology at Saint Agnes Hospital, in Baltimore, Maryland.
Now, the woman is in remission, and is optimistic that she will manage to overcome her disease, without experiencing cancer recurrence.
According to her oncologist, if it hadn’t been for Heidi’s keen senses and exquisite training, the patient’s tumor might have gone undetected until it was too late to still hold hopes of recovery.
Usually, people suffering from pulmonary cancer develop more obvious signs which lead them to consult a physician when their condition has already worsened considerably, and their 5-year survival rate tends to be greatly diminished because of this late diagnosis.
Apparently, ever since this remarkable feat, Heidi has also been trained to identify other types of malignant tumors, affecting the bladder, kidney and prostate, and her effectiveness so far has been estimated at around 95%.
Her incredible results have also drawn the attention of the American Kennel Club, which recently featured Wills’ story in a blog article.
It’s not however the first time that dogs’ sharp senses have been proven instrumental in signalling the presence of tumors.
For example, Italian researchers have proven back in April that German shepherd dogs have a 98% accuracy when it comes to identifying patients suffering from prostate cancer, just based on the smell of their urine.
Image Source: Baltimore Sun