Dogs may be able to detect cancer in humans


All pet lovers know that dogs have a very strong sense of smell. But do you know that this ability of dogs is useful even in the medical world? The dogs are able to sniff and detect some particular diseases in humans, including cancer.

Not all dogs can do that. Only those with training to sniff out disease symptoms can help. This may sound insane but the dogs can actually detect the changes that a disease causes.

This article will explain the research-based evidence behind dogs’ abilities to identify different types of cancer by selling. It will also explain how medical professionals can consider dogs in diagnosing medical conditions.

How do dogs smell a disease?

There is sufficient research to suggest that dogs can detect multiple types of cancers in humans. Almost all diseases, including cancer, leaves specific signs i.e. odor changes, fluids secretion etc that is easy to identify. Cancer cells or the normal body cells cause some of the changes, which make it easy for a dog to sniff if it is different.

Dogs are capable of noticing the changes in the following.

  • Breath
  • Skin
  • Sweat
  • Urine
  • Feces

When dogs can detect these changes, they alter people about it. Such helper dogs are called medical detection dogs by healthcare centers. Dogs are able to detect a few substances even if they are an extremely low amount. It’s because their nose is extremely sensitive to the changes in a person’s body odor, breath, blood or even urine.

Which type of cancer a dog can detect?

The researchers have worked on a number of cases and it shows that dogs are capable of diagnosing more than one type of cancer. A case study published in BMJ Case Reports tells how a 75-year-old man was diagnosed with cancer when his pet dog was continuously licking a lesion behind his ear. It was a confirmed case of malignant melanoma. However, no one trained this dog for disease detection.

More recent research explains that dogs may be able to detect colorectal cancer by sniffing the breath and feces of patients. It is even possible to detect cancer at a very early stage, the researchers believe.

It is also possible for the dogs to detect lung cancer by sniffing the breath of patients. Another study explains that dogs can accurately distinguish people with lung cancer from a mixed group of people.

There is also evidence of dogs sniffing ovarian cancer and prostate cancer in patients through blood and urine samples.

Lastly, the trained medical dogs detected breast cancer and they also detected melanoma and lung cancer, explaining that there may be a common body change in multiple types of cancer.

Are researchers actually using dogs in cancer research?

The fact that dogs can detect cancer in humans in a medical benefit. This method is not the primary screening test but a confirmatory test along with several others. Medical detection dogs are easy to use because of the noninvasive method.

This ability of the dog is natural but it may inspire to develop machines that reliably detect the same changes in cancer patients. In any case, it is a long way to go and requires more research.

The final word

The incredible sniffing ability of dogs is helpful to detect the changes in the human body. When these changes are due to a disease i.e. cancer, the medical detection dogs aid in screening by sniffing patient’s skin, fluids, breath or excretions.

The scientists are working on how to use this ability in the diagnosis and tracking of cancer. However, the supplementary investigation is required before using this method as a part of a clinical diagnosis.





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Areeba Hussain
The author is a Medical Microbiologist and healthcare writer. She is a post-graduate of Medical Microbiology and Immunology. She covers all content on health and wellness including weight loss, nutrition, and general health.


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