Medical Detection Dogs

Medical Detection Dogs

Medical detection dogs - 23rd October

Presentation by Simon McKinna

Simon mentioned some tragedies within his wider family that stimulated his great commitment to this new Charity founded in 2008 with just one centre at Great Horwood near Milton Keynes. This small but now fast growing charity has two main focuses:

             1) Clinical detection dogs (detecting disease from clinical samples)

      and 2) Medical Alert and Assist dogs (partnered to individuals).

The science behind the use of dogs relates to the fact that metabolic diseases and cancers cause changes in body cells from which the VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) that diffuse out (each disease having a detectable VOC fingerprint) can be detected by the incredibly sensitive noses of dogs. Dogs are trained to recognize particular VOCs, which they can detect at extremely low concentrations. . To back-up achievements with medical alert dogs the associated research is published in peer-reviewed scientific and medical journals.

The dogs, mostly retrievers or other gun dogs are well socialised and accredited after training. Currently the medical alert dogs are used with sufferers with serious conditions such as Brittle Type 1 diabetes, Addison’s disease, narcolepsy, Severe nut allergy, and pain seizures. For diabetes, dogs can be used to detect both low and high blood sugars (especially useful where hypo-awareness has been lost) and with children where constant monitoring is needed dogs will alert the child by bringing the child’s test kit and then also alert the parent. Such dogs take 2 years to train with 51 placed so far (90% with Type 1s) and the charity is currently placing 12-14 dogs a year. Over an average 10 year working life, each dog costs around £11,200, and currently there is a 3 to 4 year waiting list for these trained dogs. Such placements can not only save lives but also improve the confidence, quality of life and independence of patients.

Currently the charity employs 22 staff and uses 400 volunteers and socialisers, and does not use kennels as all dogs are raised and maintained in home environments. Remarkably most of the funds raised (95.5%) go to operating costs whilst the Administrative costs are kept to 4.5%.

For more information on the charitys fantastic work please visit