They have always been men’s best friends – protecting & guarding us from predators – and they continue to contribute to the improvement of our lives into modernity.
Within this decade, the scientific community has been seriously investing in cancer-sniffing dog training programs to detect early cancer from urine and breath. A dog’s sense of smell is no short of a super power. They have 220 million smell receptors when we only have 5 million. Converting this into perspective-taking, it is like we can taste a bag of sugar in a cup of coffee, but dogs can taste the same amount of sugar in 2 Olympic size swimming pools, or we can see as far as 1/3 of a mile but a dog can see well 3,000 miles away.
Cancerous cells release waste products that are different from healthy cells and dogs are believed to be able to detect this at an early stage. Dogs are being trained in the UK, US, Japan… to sniff out many different kinds of cancer including prostate, ovarian, bowel, skin, bladder, lung…
Dogs work well in engaging and exciting situations like tracking drugs or guiding search-and-rescue but in a static lab situation where they’ll have to smell hundreds of urine sample a day, this proves a difficult work situation. Though there are current challenges and variations of success within independent studies but scientists think we will soon be ready to implement canines’ incredible ability to cost-effectively detect early cancers.