Dog-assisted therapy is a new resource in medical practice which is being developed in the fields of psychological therapy, psychiatry, even predictive medical diagnosis, and not just to accompany the death of terminally ill patients. Specialists think that it is possible that canine olfactory acuity enables them to respond to human physical and mental conditions. Empirical observation points to them being able to differentiate between the smells of anxiety vs. depression...
Of course, the fact that dogs are just simply being nice, "non-judgmental" pets to have around is also acknowledged.
"Once, Duke jumped up and sat next to a patient she hadn't realized was depressed. "When I asked if she was, suddenly the woman poured out her heart to me," says Dr. Abrams. "My three-year-old dog knew more than I did.
How can dogs be that sensitive to human emotions?
Experts speculate that people give off tell-tale scents under certain physical or psychological conditions that only dogs can detect.
That acute sense of smell also enables specially trained service dogs to recognize when seizures, diabetic comas or heart attacks are imminent in humans. Some dogs can even detect the presence of cancer cells in lab specimens—much like detecting traces of contraband or explosives in luggage."
Read more in WSJ's The Doctor's Dog Will See You Now
Photo © Pavel Shlykov