Medical Alert Dogs (MADs) are a promising support system for a variety of medical conditions. Emerging anecdotal reports suggest that dogs may alert to additional health conditions and different people other than those that they were trained for or initially began alerting. As the use of medical alert dogs increases, it is imperative that such claims are documented empirically. The overall aims of this study were to record the proportion of MAD owners who have a dog that alerts to multiple health conditions or to people other than the target person and to determine whether any sociodemographic variables were associated with dogs alerting to multiple conditions, multiple people, or both. MAD owners completed an online survey that contained a series of forced choice questions. Sixty-one participants reported a total of 33 different conditions to which dogs alerted. Eighty-four percent of participants reported that their dog alerted to multiple conditions and 54% reported that their dog alerted to multiple people. This is the first study to document that a large percentage of people report that their MAD alerts to multiple conditions and/or to multiple people. We present a discussion of how these alerting abilities could develop, but questions about the underlying mechanisms remain.
- medical alert dogs
- canine olfaction