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Do dogs smell cancer? Find out

by Alivia Nyhan
Published: Last Updated on

Although they are one of the favorite pets of man and even a member of the family for many people, we must not forget that the animal instinct of the dog is still very present, highlighting its smell above any other capacity.

And it is that its olfactory sensitivity is so surprising that this animal is able to know when we are close to home, when a woman is in the first weeks of gestation or if there is a malignant tumor forming in the body of a person, even if the same It is in the initial stage. How you read! Dogs smell cancer and in this FastlyHealarticle we explain how they get it.

The developed sense of smell of dogs

Perhaps the most prominent instinct of dogs is their powerful sense of smell , while we humans have 50 million olfactory cells, dogs have approximately 220 million, which is why they are great “sniffers.” Thanks to their prodigious nose, dogs have been used to follow the trail of prey, of people, in rescue missions, to detect the presence of drugs and now, also, as an alert that allows us to know if a change as important as cancer.

All dogs have excellent olfactory cells, however some breeds stand out above others, those that for hundreds of years have been dedicated to tracking prey are usually highly effective. Dogs have been trained for decades for special missions, and now a new door is opened in the world of medicine when they discover their incredible ability to detect with great accuracy the presence of different types of cancers.

Why do dogs smell cancer?

Thanks to their acute sense of smell, dogs are able to detect the slightest changes in our body , this is how the animal can determine, for example, that a woman has her period or that she is pregnant, in the same way that it has been proven that the animal is able to sniff out the cellular change that occurs with cancer and tumors even in their early stages.

When cancer cells give rise to a tumor, the mass emits a series of chemical particles known as volatile organic compounds or VOCs for short, these compounds that can be present in breath, blood, feces or urine depending on the type cancer, can be detected by animals through their smell. With proper training, dogs are capable of detecting various types of cancers with an effectiveness greater than 90%.

Studies Revealing Link Between Dogs and Cancer

The interest of science in the olfactory abilities of dogs to detect cancer first emerged, at least formally, in 1989 thanks to a publication written by doctors Hywel Williams and Andrés Penbroke of King’s College University Hospital in the United Kingdom. , who cared for a patient who came for consultation because her dog was obsessed with licking a mole, this ended up creating suspicion in the patient, resulting in the mole being an early stage malignant melanoma.

British doctors cast doubt on the possibility that dogs could detect the presence of cancer prematurely, a doubt that also caught the attention of Caroline M. Willis, a doctor from the department of dermatology at the British Amersham Hospital, who in 2004 carried out the first practical study on this topic.

For this sample, 54 bladder cancer patients plus other healthy individuals were selected, along with 6 dogs that would serve as trackers. The mission of the dogs was to sniff urine samples from the volunteers in order to determine the percentage of success in detecting cancer. The dog with the most hits detected 56% of cancer cases, while the rest averaged 41%. This opened the door to the question, what would happen if we trained dogs to detect cancer?

In 2006 another study led by the Pine Street Foundation was carried out in which they used 5 dogs, they detected the breath of 86 patients with cancer, 55 lung and 31 breast, plus 83 healthy patients. The result was surprising: dogs detected between 88 and 97% of cancer cases , a result that left everyone speechless.

The most representative sample

Since the beginning of 2000, there are many studies that have been carried out around the ability of these pets to determine the existence of tumors, however the most representative to date has been carried out in 2014 by the Clinical Center and Humanitas scientist in Milan in which two German shepherds trained to trace explosives, had the opportunity to sniff urine samples from 900 men, 362 of them with prostate cancer.

The result was surprising: the dogs were correct in 98% of the cases detecting both patients with advanced cancer and those in an early stage and still low risk. This makes specialists highlight the importance of this detection method as an inexpensive and effective alternative to determine the presence of the disease at a very early stage, at which point it can be attacked without putting the patient’s life at risk.

Training dogs to detect cancer

Training dogs to detect cancer could be one of the new solutions that allow, without the need for expensive examinations or invasive tests, if a patient has a certain type of cancer in the initial phase. Currently, dogs are being trained with substances that reproduce the smell of cancer, allowing pets to be able to detect its presence very effectively in just a few weeks.

Science already knows that dogs smell cancer, now the real challenge is to use that ability to help patients discover the presence of the disease through a highly effective, inexpensive and reliable test: the smell of a dog.

This article is merely informative, at FastlyHeal .com we do not have the power to prescribe medical treatments or make any type of diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor in the case of presenting any type of condition or discomfort.

If you want to read more articles similar to Do dogs smell cancer? Find out , we recommend that you enter our Wellness category .

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