Dog Lifestyle, Pet Health, Pets and Family

Can dogs smell cancer in humans? The newest dog detection research!

Dogs have sensitive noses with super strong scent receptors. Our dog’s noses are so finely-tuned that they can even smell underwater!  When we saw a question posted in a recent Reddit Thread “Can Dogs Smell Cancer?” which discussed a heart breaking story about a woman that had cancer and her dogs would not leave her side.  The posted asked can dogs smell cancer in humans?   

Brown dog doing scent work sniffing the ground.

We just had to investigate whether or not dog’s superpowered noses could also smell diseases.  After all, researchers are finding out that dogs can detect Covid in people’s sweat and urine so why would dogs not be able to smell cancer in humans?  

Can dog’s smell cancer in humans?

Yes, dogs can naturally detect cancer and their abilities can be reinforced with training to accurately smell and detect cancer in humans. Dogs can sniff out several different forms of cancer such as ovarian, skin, lung, bowel, prostate and endometrial cancers. When people have cancer, their body chemistry changes and dogs can sense this change.

Like many other diseases, cancers leave specific traces, or odor signatures, in a person’s body and bodily secretions. Cancer cells, or healthy cells affected by cancer, produce and release these odor signatures. 

Brown and white hound dog sniffing the camera outside on gravel.

According to information in Experimental Biology in science daily, “dogs can use their highly evolved sense of smell to pick out blood samples from people with cancer with almost 97 percent accuracy.” For the cancer detection study, beagles were presented with a series of human blood samples.

Sniffer dogs can identify lung cancer patients from breath and urine samples. They correctly predicted 40 out of 41 cancer samples by identifying volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Dogs can sniff out several different forms of cancer such as ovarian, skin, lung, bowel, prostate and endometrial cancers. BioScentDx plans to use canine scent detection as the new cancer-detection tool. They want to develop a non-invasive way of screening for cancer and other life-threatening diseases. 

How do dogs act when they smell cancer in humans?

When a dog is detecting cancer in humans, there are some tell-tale signs you can read simply from your dog’s body language similar to other scent detecting dogs. These signs include:

  • Staring 
  • Alert expression, ears up
  • Barking 
  • Head tilting 
  • Sniffing
  • Intense focus 
  • Nose in the air or to the ground 
  • Turning head to follow scent 
  • Tail up but not wag
  • Rapid inhalation and exhalation 
  • Scratching or pawing at source of scent

Training dogs to smell cancer in humans

Doctors and researchers use different techniques to train dogs to detect cancer. Usually, a dog is trained by sniffing small containers holding different blood plasma or urine samples, one of which is cancerous. When the dog stops sniffing and sits in front of the cancerous blood sample, they are rewarded with a treat.  

Dogs are trained to detect the particular chemical in cancerous blood, urine, or any kind of waste over a period of time. It takes time, patience, and dedication to train cancer detection dogs. Through proper training, the dogs and the information they collect enable us to help sick people all over!

Researchers have produced strong evidence that dogs can detect other diseases as well including Parkinson’s Disease, Diabetes, and Malaria.

Final thoughts About Amazing Dogs Smelling Cancer

Dogs are amazing and priceless creatures, aren’t they? A dog’s sense of smell is almost 100,000 times stronger than humans. Dogs have been trained to detect many human diseases including cancer and most recently, COVID-19.

Although there is currently no cure for cancer but early detection offers the best hope of survival. Dogs can not only detect cancer, but that by detecting cancers, they save countless lives every day. 

“A highly sensitive test for detecting cancer could potentially save thousands of lives and change the way the disease is treated.” Heather Junqueira, of the BioScentDX cancer research group in Florida.
What are your thoughts?  Do you think your dog could smell cancer?

Learn more about other amazing dog’s and how they help us in our Amazing Dog Series:

The Important Job of Cadaver Dogs

Conservation Detection Dogs: Koala Detection

5 Amazing Livestock Guardian Dogs and Their Jobs

Dog Smelling Cancer FAQs

Can dogs smell if you have cancer?

Dogs can smell if you have cancer and certain dogs are trained to hone that skill and have been accurate more often that cancer detecting technology.

Is my dog trying to tell me that I have cancer?

Unless your dog has trained for a specific que to detect cancer they are likely not trying to tell you that you have cancer. A dog may alert to cancer with many different signals such as staring, alert expression, ears up, barking, head tilting, sniffing, intense focus, nose in the air or to the ground, turning head to follow scent, tail up but not wag, rapid inhalation and exhalation, scratching or pawing at source of scent that can also indicate other things. So although dogs can detect cancer they are likely not telling you you have cancer if they are also doing one of these signals.

What breed of dogs detect cancer?

Many breeds of dogs can perform scent work and detect cancer as we can see in our Amazing Dog Series, some are mixed breeds, some are purebred labs, pointers and hounds that are known to have superior scent detection.

Find more dog advice and fun stories in our popular book called Motherpuppin’ Adorable: What to do when your dog is better than everyone else’s the perfect companion for navigating the best life with your dog. Learn more about this loved book.