Dogs are considered to be “man’s best friend” and for many reasons, they love unconditionally, make great comfort keepers and companions, they don’t talk back and some even fetch newspapers and slippers, not to mention they are our fur babies and treasured members of our families, but did you know that dogs can detect cancer in the body even up to a year before it is detected by humans?

That’s a fact, as a dog’s olfactory abilities are incredibly accurate.

“Doctors and Scientists are taking a closer look at disease detection through the “eyes” of the canine nose.”

Dog smelling receptors are 25 times more powerful than humans, with an ability of 100,000 times greater. Humans rely upon their visual cortex for reasoning, logic and decision making, and dogs rely on their olfactory cortex which is about 40 times larger than humans, that being said, their olfactory bulb has a large number of smell sensitive receptors, with a range between 125 to 220 million, which is a hundred thousand to a million times more reactive than that of humans.

Research proves that trained lab dogs were able to pick out blood samples from cancer patients with 97 percent accuracy.

“Dogs powerful noses have 300 million sensors compared with a humans 5 million. In addition, dogs have a second smelling device in the backs of their noses that we don’t have, called Jacobson’s organ.”

So how do they detect cancer? Many different studies of dogs with their cancer detection noses are due to the fact that cancerous cells release different metabolic waste products than healthier cells within the human body.

Dogs possess the ability to detect the earliest stages of cancer because of the chemical traces in the range of parts per trillion.

Dogs can detect cancerous cells through a humans breath, as impossible as this may sound, studies have confirmed they can detect skin cancer melanoma by sniffing skin lesions and researchers have also proven dogs can detect prostate cancer by smelling the patients urine.

In Europe, researchers have trained some dogs to detect many various types of cancer, those being, bladder cancer, skin, lung, prostate, bowl, ovarian, endometrial, and cervical cancers. Scientist and researchers are certain that the near future of medical cancer detection will include mans best friend as an important instrument in early cancer detection.

These trained dogs will become an integrated part of future patient care as they will be working in laboratories where the gas chromatographs could be utilized to isolate specific compounds identified by dogs.

Other recent developments include a breathalyzer that can change color according to the compounds in the breath indicating the presence of cancer.

The challenge now is how to replicate these studies as scientist figure out how to translate dogs diagnostic skills into clinically useful and standardized protocols that can be scaled up from study samples of a few dozen or hundreds to the millions who are screened for cancer each year.

Cynthia M. Otto, DVM, PhD, director of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine (Penn Vet) Working Dog Center said ” I absolutely believe that (dogs) can detect cancer, the bigger question is, how we will use them in the battle to fight cancer.”

There are many examples of ‘real-life’ successes that prove this is no joke, and could be the future of early cancer detection.

A 40 year old woman from Rochester, Minnesota was studying for a test when her dog began nosing at her left side and acting strangely. When the woman brushed away the dog slobber, she felt a lump and subsequently received a diagnosis of breast cancer.

The dog of a woman from Amherst NY persistently sniffed a red spot on the woman’s nose, prompting her to get the bump checked. It turns out the bump was basal cell carcinoma that may have caused severe disfigurement if it had gone unchecked.

According to U.S. News & World Report, a black lab named Marine was able to detect colon cancer in a study of 200 humans who suffered from this disease with an incredible 97 percent accuracy rate. Marine had an even higher accuracy rate than the routine fecal occult blood tests by approximately 25 percent, that’s astonishing that he was able to detect early stage signs of cancer and advanced malignancies.

In Milan, colleagues of Gianluigi Taverna of Humanitas Research Hospital took the urine samples from 320 men with prostate cancer and 357 without it. The men with cancer had different stages of the disease from low risk tumors to high risk tumors. In the non prostate cancer group, some of the men also had other diseases, including other types of cancer. Two dogs were used for this study, taken together, both dogs had an accuracy rate of 98 percent, which the team reported to the annual meeting of the American Urological Association.

Another study published in the European Respiratory Journal, stated four trained dogs (one Australian shepherd, two German shepherds and one Labrador) correctly identified lung cancer in 71 out of 100 samples from lung cancer patients. These dogs also ruled out cancer in 372 of 400 samples known not to have the cancer, a very low rate of false positives which is about 7 percent.

The In Situ Foundation is a non-profit organization whose goal is to provide low cost, non-invasive cancer detection screening for the general public using and training dogs for medical scent detection. They collaborate with universities, doctors, researchers and scientists in studies and helping with research.

They hope to raise awareness of early cancer detection though canine scent detection. Most of the dogs used by the non-profit organization In Situ, are high drive dogs that have been rescued from death row.

The accuracy is 88-99% and the dogs have to go through pretty rigorous training to be able to do this. Their 5 dog team consists of; a German-Shepherd, Australian Shepherd, Shepherd/Lab mix, Beagle and Belgian Malinois, Mix breeds dogs containing any combination of these, as well as many others, could also be effective for medical scent detection.

Dogs really are man’s best friend!

For Further Insight: