Research Suggests Dogs Can Smell Cancer With Astonishing Accuracy

Jamie McCarthyGetty Images

Dogs have long been known as man’s best friend, and new research suggests that they may be able to help their fellow humans out in an incredible way — by accurately identifying cancer with their sense of smell.

Research conducted by lead researcher at BioScentDx Heather Junqueira and her colleagues revealed that trained dogs were able to correctly identify lung cancer by smelling blood samples 96.7 percent of the time and identify normal blood 97.5 percent of the time, Science Daily reported.

The team taught four beagles to distinguish between the blood samples using the clicker training approach. Three of the dogs were able to correctly identify the lung cancer samples, while the remaining dog was “unmotivated” to participate in the study. The team presented their findings at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology’s annual meeting held in Orlando, Florida.

Science Daily reported that dogs can detect odors 10,000 times better than humans, meaning they can smell things that human noses cannot even perceive. Their precise skill to sniff out cancer makes them valuable resources in the medical field.

“Although there is currently no cure for cancer, early detection offers the best hope of survival,” Junqueira said, adding that similar tests could even change the way cancer is treated.

As a result of the dogs’ super-sniffing ability, BioScentDx plans to implement similar ways of using canines to screen for not only for cancer but other life-threatening diseases. The company has already initiated a breast cancer study to take place in November where participants will submit breath samples that will be used with trained dogs.

This isn’t the first time dogs and their sense of smell have been used to detect cancer. In 2017, PubMed reported on a study that found a trained dog was able to identify the presence of lung cancer through breath samples. In 2013, a report by the National Center for Biotechnology Information detailed another study that showed how trained dogs could smell breast cancer with high accuracy. In addition, the BBC reported that other studies have shown that dogs could detect cancer through stool samples.

The power of a dog’s sense of smell can do even more. In March, the BBC reported that dogs could detect a certain smell when a seizure was taking place — and in some cases, dogs could detect a seizure before it happened. The report said that dogs were also able to detect diabetes, Parkinson’s Disease, and malaria.