They are looking for bombs, drugs or disappeared people. But that’s not all: Dogs can also sniff cancer.
Dogs have incredible skills. They are not only faithful, loving companions, but also an important help in different situations. They are looking for bombs, drugs or disappeared people. But that’s not all: Dogs can also sniff cancer.
Assistance dogs can also help with teaching children and, for example, improve their reading skills. Also in the therapy of persons with autism or down syndrome dogs can serve well. But today’s article is about sniffing various cancers.
Dogs and the diagnosis of cancer
With special training, dogs can smell diseases such as epilepsy or diabetes because they have an extraordinary sense of smell. Even when sniffing cancer, the velvet paws are very efficient.
At the end of the 80s, a mixture of Border Collie and Pinscher persistently pointed his owner to a birthmark. The woman was examined by a dermatologist who diagnosed a melanoma. This is just one example of how powerful a dog’s nose can be!
How can a dog sniff cancer?
Dogs have an almost unimaginable number of olfactory cells, the shepherd shines, for example, with about 220 million odor receptors. The human nose, on the other hand, has a maximum of 5 million olfactory cells and therefore performs rather poorly in comparison.
For example, a dog has the ability to sniff a drop of blood in an Olympic pool! If trained accordingly, a quadruped can also smell certain illnesses.
He discovers volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that spread through the disease throughout the organism.
What types of cancer can a dog smell?
- Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men. By sniffing a urine sample, a dog can detect around 93-95% of cases. With their fine nose, the specially trained dogs recognize micro-substances that indicate cancer. A short whine makes the diagnosis!
- Ovarian cancer can also be detected by a dog in the early stages. The accuracy is around 90%. The problem, however, is that in 60% of cases the cancer is already well advanced. Since many early-stage symptoms can also be attributed to other diseases, early diagnosis is not easy. However, dogs can sniff ovarian cancer from a urine sample.
- Dogs can recognize lung cancer from the smell of breath, here is the hit rate at 100%!
- We have already told the story of a woman who was made aware of skin cancer by her dog. Through training, dogs can detect skin cancer from the body odor.
- Colon, kidney and intestinal cancer can be sniffed with a hit rate of around 98%. Here, the dog smells the breath or the chair of the sick person to make a diagnosis.
- Some studies also show that trained dogs are able to detect breast and bladder cancer.
Training dogs to detect cancer
Labrador dogs are particularly well suited for this work because they love to search for traces and to use their odor cells. However, experts assume that every dog breed can be trained accordingly.
The smell is different for each disease, so specific training is essential to actually make a diagnosis. In this training, dogs are trained through positive reinforcement (reward) to recognize a particular disease.