It has often been said that dogs are Man’s Best Friend. But the truth is that, within the world of medicine, they’re everyone’s best friend.
The Sweet Smell of Success
There have been, and continue to be, many research studies and documented accounts on dogs who were/are able to smell skin cancer and melanoma on their owners and cancer patients.
And with their owners they’ll not only sniff it out, they’ll then continually pester them until they go and have it checked out by a dermatologist. Not a bad return on some affectionate petting and a few Scooby Snacks.
This ability, known medically as “canine olfactory detection” can also be positively manipulated by training dogs to detect other cancers such as of the lung, breast and prostate, to name just a few. It truly is amazing that, no matter how fast the technical achievements of medical science improve and evolve, Mother Nature still reigns supreme.
Scents and Scents-ability
Dogs possess over 200 million more smell-receptor cells than that of their human counterparts. This includes volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as dimethydisulfide and isoamyl alcohol.
Those two VOCs are released from melanomas at all stages and have been verified by high-sensitivity instruments. As a result, this incredible ability that is impossible for humans to perform, is routine for canines.
Meet Claire (a British animal behavioral psychologist) and Daisy, the pet dog who saved her life.
(Photo credit: DailyMail.com)
Dogs can detect cancer by sniffing urine, breath, and skin among other items. A patient doesn’t even have to be present. He or she need only provide a medical sample that can later be presented to a trained dog for olfactory inspection.
It’s Only Common Scents
Of course, it’s both impractical and expensive to train thousands of dogs to sniff out various illnesses, particularly within hospital/medical office settings. However, they are integral in helping medical science continue to progress on the creation of artificial scent-receptors that will have capabilities similar to those of their canine counterparts.
It makes sense, really. We’ve had CAT scans for years; it’s about time dog scans had their turn.
While this is all excellent news, it’s important to keep in mind that many people don’t own dogs. And it’s unwise for those who do to now think, “Rover hasn’t focused his attention on any particular area recently, so I must be cancer-free.”
It is vital to take a quick 10 minutes each month to continue to performing your skin self-exams. They’re far more reliable at detecting melanoma than depending on Fido to be your primary oncological diagnostician.