When you consider that dogs can actually detect health issues such as cancer in humans, the saying that dogs are man’s best friend takes a whole new turn. But what type of dogs can smell cancer?
What type of dogs can smell cancer?
Due to their sensitive noses, both trained and untrained dogs are able to detect certain types of cancer and warn us ahead of time (1). Usually, hunter dogs are best suited for this. Here are some facts and some interesting things to know about dogs that can detect cancer.
The four-legged doctors
The nose of a dog has around 300 million sensors, compared to us, we have only 5 million (2). Along with these sensors, they have an additional feature, a kind of second-nose.
This second smelling device is located in the back of their noses and it is called the Jacobson’s organ. Because dogs have this double smelling system, it allows them to detect cancer’s unique odors, called volatile organic compounds (3).
There may be other factors by which a dog is alerted of cancer’s presence however, many studies are still required in order to determine the exact mechanism.
It is quite odd that such a thing is not more heavily funded since most statistics, usually point out to high percentages of successful canine cancer detection. Though there are also skeptics.
Currently, dogs have been capable, in some instances, to successfully identify lung cancer, melanoma, breast cancer, bladder cancer and more (4).
Training Results – Technological Mimic?
Reportedly, dogs can be trained to detect cancer in around 93% of cases, though many dogs displayed this skill without being trained. Two studies in 2004 and 2006 involving a small number of patients, reported 99% accuracy in detecting lung cancer with the help of dogs (5).
Most cancers leave different signatures in a person’s body and dogs can detect them through different characteristics such as skin, breath, urine, feces, or sweat.
The key factor is that dogs detect certain substances in very low concentrations. Their sensitive noses are powerful enough to detect cancer markers in a person’s breath, urine, and blood.
Usually, the types of dogs that can detect cancer are scent hounds such as beagles. Dogs that have been specifically bred to chase other small animals during a hunt are usually better in detecting cancer.
This is because their olfactory receptors are even better than other dog breeds. Not only this, it appears that dogs have a greater ability to screen for cancer than even our own technological devices (6).
When the exact nature and mechanism of how dogs can detect cancer are fully understood, it may be possible for us to replicate this in a technological form.
Did you know?
– Dogs may be good in detecting cancer however; using them to scan thousands of samples is challenging work and inevitably leads to inaccuracies.
– It is possible to technologically replicate a dog’s powerful sensitive nose and use it to detect cancer though much more research and studies are required.
– Some have suggested that if a dog’s cancer detection skills can be replicated, it can be implemented in smartphones and thus you will always have something to alert you of chemical changes.
– There are many stories around the world of dogs alerting their owners of a bad medical condition. One such example is when a dog continually sniffed a colored lesion on its owner’s thigh, and even tried to bite it off when the owner wore shorts. The owner had doctors inspect the lesion, and it turned out to be a malignant melanoma.