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Cortisol-sniffing dogs ease anxieties of special needs children

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(NaturalNews) It's often been said that the act of petting an animal can help reduce a person's stress levels, but what about having a dog sniff you to help you essentially do the same? Bizarre thought? Not so much, according to several school children and those who are advocates of what might be the newest in stress management methods: cortisol-sniffing dogs.

That's right. There are drug-sniffing canines and even ones that set out to identify smuggled rhino horns or elephant tusks, and now there are ones that can help identify when cortisol levels are out of whack.

Cortisol, more commonly known as the "stress hormone" that's produced by the adrenal glands, is responsible for keeping both the immune system and blood pressure in check during times of emotional or physical stress.(1) With cortisol levels in check, people are better able to fight infection, have less likelihood of depression and do not have as much abdominal weight gain.

Therefore, ensuring that one's levels are in check is important for overall health.

How cortisol-sniffing dogs help others

Enter the cortisol-sniffing dogs.

Students at the Calais School in Whippany, N.J., many of whom are autistic or said to have "oppositional defiant disorder" or attention deficit disorder, enjoy the benefits of having an 18-month-old Rhodesian Ridgeback named Cali around.(2) Cali was trained to sniff out elevated cortisol levels, which are typically secreted by the adrenal glands in situations of stress and anxiety. Every day, the dog greets all of the K-12 graders as they enter school, calmly pointing her nose and staring at children who seem extremely stressed. This alerts staff so that they can tend to the child in question.

Ms. Butler, a certified specialist in animal adaptive therapy and natural canine behavior rehabilitation, explains just how effective Cali is. In one example, she notes that Cali once started pacing and nudging Ms. Butler. "She led me up one flight of stairs to the opposite end of the building," said Ms. Butler, "where we found a girl starting to have a meltdown."(2) Within just a few minutes of seeing Cali, the anxious student calmed down. In many instances, Ms. Butler points out, students are often allowed to brush, pet and sometimes walk the dog, as such actions are calming.

The powerful ability of dogs to recognize health issues in humans

If it seems hard to believe that Cali could sense out-of-control cortisol levels from all the way up a flight of stairs and at the other end of a building, one only has to consider the words of Nicholas Dodman, director of the Animal Behavior Clinic at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. "Humans have 12 million smell receptors in their nose," he explained. "At the lowest estimate, dogs have 800 million. ... A dog's ability to smell odors is beyond our comprehension."(2)

In fact, it's been found that many dogs possess the ability to sniff out certain cancers in individuals. One study found that a Labrador retriever was able to correctly identify colorectal cancers almost 100 percent of the time by scent alone. Other findings have determined that dogs can be trained to sniff out lung cancer and also to identify which patients were healthy and which had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.(3)

Beyond sniffing, just the behavior alone of animals may help humans gain insight about their health. Consider the case of Wendy Humphrey, who noticed that her cat repeatedly jumped on her breast for weeks on end. Taking it as a sign, she went to the hospital, where it was found that she had a small, malignant tumor that, if it went undetected, might have metastasized.(3)


(1) http://www.prevention.com

(2) http://well.blogs.nytimes.com

(3) http://rawandnaturalhealth.com

About the author:
A science enthusiast with a keen interest in health nutrition, Antonia has been intensely researching various dieting routines for several years now, weighing their highs and their lows, to bring readers the most interesting info and news in the field. While she is very excited about a high raw diet, she likes to keep a fair and balanced approach towards non-raw methods of food preparation as well. >>> Click here to see more by Antonia

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