1. ITV Report

Can our canine friends find life-threatening illnesses?

Last week we brought you the story of Sharon Rawlinson from Nottinghamshire who claims her King Charles Spaniel saved her life by alerting her to a cancerous lump in her breast.

Speaking on Central Tonight, Sharon from Newark, described her King Charles Spaniel as a 'Guardian Angel'

It may sound incredible but there's an increasing amount of research now being done to see if dogs can detect other life-threatening medical conditions.

One animal biologist from a Midlands university thinks we've only just begun to scratch the surface of what our canine friends might be capable of.

Doctor Jacqueline Boyd with her two pet dogs Credit: ITV Central

Doctor Jacqueline Boyd is a lecturer at the School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences at Nottingham Trent University.

A dog-owner herself, she says there is strong evidence to suggest they're incredibly sensitive to physiological changes in humans.

"There's probably a change in bio-chemistry ... physiological changes, and probably anatomical changes as well. It could be any one of those or any combination of those."

"There is lots of work now being done with epilepsy-detecting dogs. Diabetes-detecting dogs. Dogs being trained for actually noting changes in humans that might relate to the onset of a seizure or onset of something else."

– Doctor Jacqueline Boyd, animal biologist

Mankind has harnessed the intelligence of dogs from centuries - from hunting and sheep herding, to more modern uses in policing like sniffing out drugs and weapons.

In the 17th century monks in Switzerland first used St Bernards to locate missing people in the Swiss Alps.

Fast forward to the 1950's and the former Soviet Union start using dogs for unmanned space flights. And In the 1960's the Israelis begin using canines to sniff out hidden contraband.

Closer to home sniffer dogs were recently used to check for explosives ahead of the Olympic football matches at the City of Coventry stadium.

When an earthquake devastated the island of Haiti two years ago, dogs from the Lincolnshire Search & Rescue team helped save hundreds of lives.

And to this day army dogs play a vital role in reconnaissance patrols in Afghanistan.

For some the use of dogs to benefit humans raises ethical issues.

But Dr Boyd believes that as long as such work is based on love and trust, man's best friend is happy to help.