It's common knowledge that dogs are incredible smellers, but exactly how powerful are their noses, anyway? You probably know that dogs are used to smell out drugs, bombs, and other dangerous materials, but did you know that dog's noses are so sensitive they're able to sniff out medical maladies?
It's true! Pups are gifted with such strong noses that they're able to sniff out tumors, cancer, infections, and even eczema. While you probably don't need your dog to alert you to eczema - typically you're able to tell when you have it yourself, it's still pretty crazy that they're able to sniff this out.
Then again, if you don't know you have eczema and your dog is paying special attention to a few spots on your body, it's possible they're trying to let you know that you're developing the condition. But how can you tell that your dog is letting you know? What signs might your pup be giving you to give you the skinny on your condition?
Read on to get a better idea of how your dog might be trying to communicate with you that you're contracting something like eczema.
Signs Your Dog Might Be Giving You to Alert You to Your Eczema
People love having dogs around because of their sweet nature, loyalty, and adorable personalities, but people also love how useful and talented dogs are, too, especially when it comes to sniffing out conditions. Your dog can definitely smell eczema on your skin, and even if you're already aware of the condition, it's still pretty neat that your dog can tell something is up just by the odor.
Your dog will probably pay special attention to the areas that are affected. That means you can definitely count on your dog to sniff around the affected spots, lick a lot (dogs think they're helping you heal when they do this), and nose around the area, too.
Your dog might treat this spot pretty obsessively, and you may have to prompt him or her to leave you alone. You can also expect your pup to be very distracted by the affected spot - they might stare, they might nuzzle it, or they might not even pay attention to you because he or she is so focused on the area that's affected. Your pup might also bark, growl, or howl to get your attention, as if to say "hey, I don't know if you know this or not, but you're smelling pretty different and I think something might be wrong."
The History of Dogs Detecting Eczema
Dogs have been used since the early 1940s to help detect a variety of dangerous things like bombs, guns, drugs, illnesses, and more. The first use of a detection dog was in the 1940s when the United States employed pooches to sniff out German bombs in North Africa. Ever since, government associations, hospitals, and private organizations have employed fleets of dogs to sniff out what they need.
Now, dogs are trained to detect and alert their owners to the presence of diseases, ailments, and conditions. Pups can be trained to identify cancer, seizures, heart attacks, and oncoming migraines, and can even help those who are allergic to peanuts and mold. It should be no surprise that dogs are able to sniff out the patches of eczema on your skin before they even break out.
The Science of Dogs Smelling Eczema
Before we get into how your dog can smell your eczema, let's first break down what eczema is, for those who don't know. Eczema is a medical condition that affects people's skin. The affected area typically becomes dry, itchy, rough, inflamed, or has blisters that cause bleeding or itching.
The reason that your dog can smell your eczema is because they have a superb sense of sniff. Your pup can smell at about 100,000 times the acuteness that you can and has about 300 million more olfactory senses than you do.
Everything gives off an odor, and your pup is able to detect that odor far better than you ever could. That means that your eczema, even though you can't smell it, is giving off a specific scent. Your dog, knowing your usual body smell, senses a change in your scent, zeros in on the area, and then typically, will not leave it alone.
Training Your Dog to Detect Medical Conditions
Your dog already has one of the most valuable things when it comes to this type of training - the nose. Your dog's nose is insanely powerful and quite capable of detecting the tiniest of changes in an odor. In fact, a dog's smell acuteness is about 100,000 times more accurate than a human's, so if the physiology of something changes even slightly, you can bet that your dog is going to pick up on a whiff of it immediately.
Chances are that your dog is already aware of how to alert you to medical issues, like eczema. As we discussed, your pup will likely sniff, lick, bark, and howl to get your attention to the affected area.
Training your dog specifically to detect eczema breakouts might be a bit more difficult, though. Consider working with a trainer or a behaviorist who can help wrangle your dog's raw talent and turn them into a specialized sniffer. Often, trainers will familiarize dogs with the smell they're looking for (the odor that eczema gives off) and then teach them that when they detect that scent, they receive a reward.
By a Great Dane lover Hanna Marcus
Published: 04/13/2018, edited: 04/06/2020