4 min read


Can Dogs Smell Cancer?



4 min read


Can Dogs Smell Cancer?


Cancer is a disease that affects many people and animals every year, but is one for which there is no cure. Scientists have been battling for some time to try and discover a cure for this aggressive disease in addition to trying to find ways of diagnosing it easier. Often, when the signs and symptoms of cancer make themselves clear, the disease is already in the latter stages, which does not provide a good outlook for the sufferer.

However, it seems that dogs could end up playing a big part in our battle against cancer, as it has been discovered that they can detect cancer at the earliest stages simply through their sense of smell.


Signs Your Dog May Detect Cancer

When dogs smell something that they do not recognize or something that concerns them, they can act and behave out of character. Therefore, if they detect cancer through their sense of smell, you may find that they display a number of key signs. Your dog can use its sense of smell to sniff out odors associated with cancer through urine, blood, lesions, and even your breath. 

In fact, dogs that are trained to sniff out cancer learn through exposure to bodily fluids from cancerous patients. While household pet pooches do not go through this training, they can still detect a smell that they know is not normal.

So, what sorts of signs might you observe in your dog if it detects cancer? Well, it can vary from one dog to another. However, some of the signs you may notice include persistent sniffing around you, staring intently at you and head tilting, pawing at you to get your attention, licking or even nibbling at lesions you may have, sniffing the air around your mouth as your breathe or talk, and paying far more attention to you than normal. Some dogs also spend more time snuggling up to their owners if they detect cancer.   

When it comes to body language, you may notice a number of signs when you observe your pooch. Coming up to you and sniffing at you is one of the signs. Your dog may spend a lot of time following you from place to place when it senses cancer. Sometimes, dogs display body language that indicates they are trying to alert their owners to something, such as with continued paw tapping accompanied by whining. Looking out for these body language signs can give you an indication that your pooch is trying to warn you about something, so you should take notice.  

Body Language

Some clues your dog may give you if they sense you have cancer include:

  • Staring
  • Whining
  • Pacing
  • Sniffing
  • Paw Raised

Other Signs

<p>More signs a dog may show if they detect cancer in someone are:</p>

  • Paying You More Attention
  • Following You Around
  • Depressed And Subdued Behavior

The History of Dogs Smelling Cancer


Throughout history, dogs have been used for their excellence at sniffing things out. Even today, dogs are used in many industries such as law enforcement and the gas industry because of their ability to sniff and detect things that humans cannot pick up on. Often, their sense of smell enables them to be more accurate than even high-tech equipment and machinery. Dogs have also become popular within the medical industry, and they can help people with a variety of health problems such as those that suffer from migraines and are prone to seizures.

Development in canine cancer detection have been more recent, and experts have been amazed to discover that dogs are not only able to detect cancer through their sense of smell, but that they can do this at the very early stages of the disease, such as stage 0. 

According to medics, the smell of cancer can be detected by experienced people such as doctors at around stage 3 or 4 of the disease, so for dogs to be able to detect it at the earliest stages is pretty remarkable. This is why dogs are being touted as such a valuable addition to the future of cancer diagnosis.

The Science of Dogs Smelling Cancer


The extraordinary sense of smell that dogs have has enabled them to pick up on all sorts of scents that we would never be able to detect. This is why dogs are used to sniff out drugs, gas, cadavers, and a wide range of other things. 

Their ability to sniff out cancer has made them even more invaluable, particularly considering the amount of time, money, and effort that has been and continues to be put into researching this disease. There is no doubt that lives could be saved with dogs on hand to sniff out cancer, as it means earlier diagnosis and a better chance of successful treatment.   

Listening to Your Dog's Warning


Some people are at higher risk of getting cancer than others, such as those that smoke, those with a family history of the disease, and those exposed to certain chemicals as part of their jobs. If you feel you are a high-risk person, you should always keep an eye on your health and get checked out by a doctor if there is anything amiss. 

If you are a high-risk person and you also notice your dog acting strangely and displaying some of the above signs, you may need to pay particular attention to your health or make an appointment for a checkup.

While the actions and behavior of your dog certainly don’t mean that you definitely have a problem, it is best not to take any chances. Dogs are incredibly intuitive and loyal animals and if they feel there is something wrong with their owner, they will try and make it clear. So, if your dog is continuously trying to get your attention, sniffing around you, trying to bite and nibble at lesions on your body, or displaying the variety of other signs outlined above, you need to take some time to assess your own health rather than ignoring your dog.

While your dog may not be trained to detect the smell of cancer, all dogs have the ability to do this because of their sense of smell. Dogs do not know what cancer actually is, but they can recognize a foreign smell and will pay particular attention to it. If that smell is coming from you, the dog will most likely be very persistent when sniffing at you and will be following you around. You don’t necessarily have to panic and think the worst, but getting yourself checked out by your doctor as a precaution definitely won’t do you any harm. 

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By a Boston Terrier lover Reno Charlton

Published: 05/22/2018, edited: 04/06/2020

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