We all know that dogs have an incredible sense of smell - a sense that we are just beginning to fully understand. Scent dogs are involved with search and rescue teams, detecting explosive devices, finding firearms and drugs, and even scenting cancerous cells. Even more surprising, researchers have begun the starting phases of training dogs to smell the breath of humans in order to help diagnose internal diseases before they become evident with other scientific methods.
Whether dogs are able to smell aids is another question, but dogs are just beginning to assist humankind in ways we are only starting to imagine. Read on to find out more!
Signs that Dogs Can Smell Aids
From pirated DVDs to bladder cancer and bedbugs - if you need an answer, a dog has got your back.
Because dogs have such powerful noses, they are able to sniff out a number of medical conditions in people. For example, cancerous cells have a distinctly different smell than regular, healthy cells, so it makes sense that a dog could smell the change in the cell odor.
If you are uncertain as to whether your furry friend might be trying to tell you something about your health, keep an eye out for some specific behavioral signs. For instance, your pooch might try and sniff certain spots on your body more often than others, or begin to obsessively lick a certain part of your body.
Keep a lookout for uncharacteristic behavior in your dog's personality, too. Illness or cancerous smells can distress dogs, and they can become even more worrisome or anxious if you ignore their whines and pleas. If your pup seems to be more vocal, distressed, or anxious while smelling or licking your body, keep in mind that something might not be right.
The Science Behind Dogs Smelling Aids
While there is no current research on whether dogs are able to smell aids in people, the theory that dogs might be able to in the future is not far-fetched (ha).
To fully understand how well your pooch can smell, it's important to understand how doggo noses work. Dogs have about 25 times more smell receptors in their noses than us humans do, meaning they can smell about 100,000 times better. Because of this, dog brains process information differently as well. While human brains tend to be dominated by the visual cortex, dog brains are dominated by the olfactory cortex - which makes sense given that dogs literally follow their noses.
Multiple cilia (or microscopic hairline structures) extend from each of the sensory cells into the nasal cavity of dog noses. Keep in mind that each cilium contains many scent receptors. Once these cell receptors trap the smells, the scent "message" is sent directly to the olfactory bulb of the brain.
While some aspects of dogs' smelling abilities still remain a mystery to us, ordinary humans, we do understand through research that when it comes to smell, dogs are picking up on volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the air. VOCs are microscopic chemicals exist in both gaseous and liquid states, and they can be emitted by both biological and man-made substances. Although we can smell VOCs too, dogs are able to sniff out VOCs in much smaller amounts.
Exactly how great your pup is at sniffing out VOCs or illness may depend on the breed of dog, or even the individual dog itself. The fact is, some dogs are just better sniffers than others.
Training Dogs to Help People with Aids
Although it's not certain as to whether dogs can sniff out aids in humans, one thing is for sure - dogs can help people diagnosed with HIV or aids live normal, happy lives. Studies show that besides basically being superheroes, dogs have "healing powers' as well.
For instance, studies note that dogs are able to help lower stress levels, decrease cholesterol levels, and ultimately, cut the number of doctor visits we have each year. While there isn’t specific research about the benefits of dog ownership for those living with HIV or aids, people living with HIV have gushed over their pups, stating that dog ownership helped with self-esteem and even medical adherence.
Photographer Jesse Freidin has worked on capturing the healing powers of dogs in his photos. He focuses on the human-dog bond that we create, and even dedicated two years of his career to capturing images of dog owners living with HIV for his project, "When Dogs Heal."
Dogs help create routine, consistency, and a schedule to adhere to. Because of this, people have noted that they get better at keeping track of medication, which, in turn, makes people feel better. People also note that taking on the responsibility to take care of another living being adds purpose and happiness to life.
This just goes to show one of the many reasons why dogs are truly man's best friend.
By Olivia Gerth
Published: 04/11/2018, edited: 04/06/2020