In the last 6 months, three cats in Wyoming have tested positive for the plague.
Currently there are no known humans affected, however, under 10 human cases on average occur each year in the United States.
The type of plague the cats tested positive for was bubonic. So here’s the breakdown.
The plague as we know it is most commonly caused by a bacteria called, Yersinia pestis.
The victim usually acquires the plague from being bit by a flea who fed on infected animals such as rodents, or by contact with one who has the plague. Cat scratches from domesticated cats who are infected have been documented as a form of transmission.
Direct contact with infected bodily fluids could spread the plague as well. Pneumonic plague can be spread through a cough or sneeze.
There are three types of plague:
Bubonic – the most common, at first affects the lymph nodes, but may spread to throughout the body
Pneumonic – infects the lungs and may be spread from person to person by respiratory droplet.
Septicemic – infects the blood stream and can be the result of untreated bubonic and pneumonic plague
For all three types of the plague one can have:
But with bubonic plague, one may have large “bubos” or swollen glands in the neck, underarm, or pelvic/groin region.
With pneumonic plague, one may additionally have cough, shortness of breath and blood in their sputum.
Due to the disease spreading quickly, in some cases causing death within 24 hours, antibiotics need to be instituted immediately.
Moreover supportive measures such as IV fluids and oxygen may be needed as well depending on the severity of symptoms.
Flea control is paramount. So insect repellent for humans, and flea control products will help limit bites from the infected insects.
Moreover avoid rodents and clean out areas in and around your house to avoid them from scurrying around.
An Oregon woman claims her cat helped her detect her breast cancer, and she’s not the first one to claim how furry friends can save lives.
Michelle Pearson adopted a cat, Mia, a few years back from the Humane Society. The one day she pounced on Pearson’s chest, sniffed her breast and directed her owner’s attention to the breast. Days later Michelle was diagnosed with breast cancer.
She states, “All of a sudden out of nowhere, she just got up on my chest and she sniffed that breast and then looked in my face, sniffed the spot again and looked in my face and I tried to shove her off and she came back up and just laid down on that right breast and she looked at me like ‘I’m trying to tell you something.'”
She feels her rescue cat actually “rescued” her.
A woman in California cited the same miracle. Nancy Best stated her dog, also named Mia, would not stop licking her breast. She was eventually diagnosed with breast cancer.
Sometimes animals may not always be friendly towards a diseased body part. My in-law’s poodle would shower everyone with licks except for one person who she would excessively bark at. He was soon diagnosed with brain cancer.
PBS reports that dogs can smell 40 times better than humans, with over 300 million olfactory receptors in their nose. They can smell parts per trillion, a keen sense that is potentially sharp enough to pick up cancer cells and the smells they produce.
Healthline reports that cancer cells raise polyamine levels which come with an odor. Moreover if cancer cells incite an immune response, this can expel a scent as well.
In 1989 a case report revealed a woman’s dog tried to bite a mole off her leg which ended up being malignant melanoma.
According to a 2011 study in the journal Gut, Labrador retrievers were able to sniff out colon cancer in 97% of stool samples.
The Italian Ministry of Defense’s Military Veterinary Center was successful in training German Shepherds to recognize prostate cancer proteins in urine to 98% accuracy.
For those of you with a pet pigeon, don’t feel left out. A University of Iowa study found pigeons to be trained to detect breast cancer cells to 85% accuracy.
So despite our animals possessing the power to sense microscopic anomalies, we shouldn’t panic every time they sniff or lick us. But if they persist on one area of your body, it might be worth getting checked out.
Editor’s note: The folks over at Dogsnaturallymagazine.com also weigh on this topic citing numerous studies and anecdotal evidence all concluding that, yes, it’s very probable that dogs can sniff out ill health. As for cats smelling cancer, well - the research seems to suggest otherwise. Sorry, kitty lovers. =)