How do dogs act when they smell cancer? You’ve probably heard that dogs can “sense” ailments in their owners. Cancer is one of those illnesses, and it’s possible your dog can detect cancer in your body before you notice symptoms!
But how do you know when your pup’s behavior signifies cause for concern? In this guide, we’re going to take a look at all the ways your dog could be telling you you have cancer. Because so much of their response will depend on their unique personalities and conditioning, dogs won’t all react the same way to the scent of cancer. Dogs in every recorded case, however, had a clear shift from their usual behavior that let their pet parents know something wasn’t right.
There may not necessarily be cause for concern if you observe a change in your dog’s behavior, but persistent patterns may be worth investigating. It can be worthwhile to schedule a visit to the doctor if a vet visit reveals that your dog is healthy but their behavior persists.
Before you scroll further down this guide, “How Do Dogs Act When They Smell Cancer,” you can check out these other dog health-related articles from our team at We Love Doodles: Rare Dog Diseases Every Owner Should Know and Guide to Dog Periodontal Disease Stages.
History of Dogs Detecting Cancer in Humans
Researchers have spent decades trying to cure cancer. It’s an unfair, invasive disease and though we’ve taken great strides on our path to a cure, more research is necessary.
Because cancer symptoms sometimes take years to present themselves, humans are sometimes left undiagnosed until a cancer has already spread. Treatment, at this point, can be largely ineffective.
It’s possible that your dog can help! Modern medicine has advanced to include high-tech techniques to find and treat cancer as soon as possible, but dogs may actually be more efficient. It has been proven that canines can spot cancer in humans in their initial stages, which is essential for effective treatment. Some dogs are credited with having saved their human’s life by identifying cancer in its earliest stages.
The Science Behind Dogs Smelling Cancer in Humans
Inside a person’s bloodstream and biological fluids, cancerous cells leave distinct traces. These distinct remains or markers are often microscopic levels (as little as parts per trillion) of alkanes and aromatic chemicals, which emit particular scents, and are produced by the malignant development.
It’s fair to assume that canines trained to detect cancer sense a pleasant fragrance, typical of aromatic compounds or a gasoline-like stench associated with some alkane molecules. Experimental studies have demonstrated that trained cancer-detection canines could detect breast and lung cancer by smelling the patients’ breath.
These investigations also described how they distinguished between sick and fit individuals using the biochemical variations in the individual’s breath – untrained dogs may find it challenging to accomplish this.
According to results from these trials, dogs smelling patients’ pee helped find prostate and bladder cancer, whereas smelling tumor and plasma samples helped find ovarian tumors.
Patients’ breath and excrement samples were used to smell for colorectal cancer, and biopsy samples were used to find cervical cancer in test groups. Many canines can treat cancer, but dogs’ abilities are not just limited to that condition; they are also capable of recognizing other illnesses.
Other illnesses besides cancer that dogs may detect early on are diabetes, malaria, and Parkinson’s disease – sometimes long before symptoms appear.
A dog’s smell sense is roughly 1,000 to 100,000 times more acute than a human’s. With careful training, our pets can identify cancer by identifying the distinct stench the samples taken from the patients emit.
Fun fact: canines that receive specialized training to identify particular ailments are referred to as “medical detection dogs.” In a similar spirit, it is important to note that our animal friends have been known to find many malignancies, such as melanoma, lung cancer, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, prostate cancer, and others.
How Do Dogs Act When They Smell Cancer in Humans?
Several telltale signals you may interpret only from your dog’s body language indicate when a dog is detecting illness in its owner. When the dog tries to focus on the objects, noises, and smells around it, it will lift its snout and tilt its head.
It will be at ease but attentive. It won’t display any aggressive behavior and might make an effort to protect someone who isn’t in optimal health from other individuals. Its ear will incline in the direction of what it wants to hear. Its tail will not swing and would be raised aloft while smelling something new.
1. Smelling a Healthy Part of Your Body
As previously implied, one key characteristic that makes dogs so good at detecting cancer in people is their sense of smell. As a result, it makes perfect sense that when canines notice anything dangerous in your biological system, their sense of smell will become sharper, and they will continue to sniff at you.
In one practical example of melanoma, a potentially fatal type of skin cancer, dogs would repeatedly smell and nibble at the lesions on their owners’ skin, alerting them to the likely locations of their problem and allowing them to seek the necessary medical care.
It’s interesting to note that dog owners who reported their dogs smelling a supposedly healthy area of their body have frequently had cancer identified in its earliest stages in those healthy areas long after.
While your pet may be showing you the same amount of affection, it would not be very smart to draw any conclusions about your health without having a confirming test performed in a lab by qualified individuals.
2. Looking and Touching Certain Parts of Your Body
Moreover, once it has been determined that you have malignant cells within your body, you could also notice that your beloved canine is gazing at you more intensely than normal, chasing you around the home, and constantly scooting near you. The dog typically tries to soothe you by behaving this way because it senses that something may not be right with you medically.
3. Attempting to Lick Skin Lesions
The impulse to try and lick the malignant spots is yet another odd habit that dogs display when they sense the presence of cancer in their owners. Additionally, licking malignant spots happens more frequently if you have visible skin lesions.
More Dog Health Guides: Top Reasons Dog is Wobbly and Off-Balanced.
Should You Be Concerned if Your Dog Acts Strangely?
It can be challenging to know what to do if you see some of the behaviors mentioned above in your dog. Of course, we cannot automatically assume that we have cancer whenever our canine companions begin to act oddly in front of us; besides, there could be many causes for your dog acting this way.
You should not try to disregard the clues, though, if your dog is attempting to communicate with you. To properly evaluate if there is a problem, you must take some time to observe how your dog behaves and acts around you.
Certain dogs are trained to detect human cancer, which involves exposing those dogs to the bodily fluids of cancer patients or survivors. This is done so that they may become familiar with the particular smell.
The fact that your dog hasn’t been expressly trained to do this does not preclude them from being able to detect something unusual, though, as all dogs have a keen sense of smell. Because it senses that something is off, your dog’s demeanor and actions when around you may change.
It is well worth your time and effort to review your health and look for anything unusual if your dog begins to act oddly or starts exhibiting strange behaviors over an extended period.
Even though you may have previously been aware of some health issues but not given them much consideration, if your dog also seems to be sensing a problem happening within you, you might want to look into it further to rule things out.
You can visit your doctor for a checkup to get a clean bill of health, but you also need to be aware of any symptoms or indicators of illness you may have seen on your own.
How to Train a Dog to Detect Cancer in Humans
Can someone train a dog to recognize cancer? Well, why not? After all, dogs are employed to identify the smell of drugs, bombs, and other substances. Cancer patients’ breath or bodily fluids can smell spicy due to the metabolites that cancerous cells release.
Dogs must be taught to recognize the myriad chemical molecules that cancerous cells emit, which makes identifying the smell of cancer different from identifying other odors. Exposing a dog to hundreds of samples that comprise these chemical molecules and teaching it to detect a mixture of compounds is necessary to teach a dog to detect and alert to cancer.
The most efficient way to detect cancer is with a team of dogs due to its intricacy. A positive hit from several team members is a reliable sign that a patient has cancer.
To successfully identify cancer in such difficult settings, a dog with unusually sensitive scent-detecting ability and a calm, focused attitude is essential. Like previous smell detection training, cancer smell detection training will include an incentive system to encourage accurate recognition.
Methods Used to Detect Cancer
Treats or toy play are regularly used. Additionally, a scent wheel with many samples for the dog to differentiate among may be used.
Samples are drawn from a range of people, both healthy and affected, and maybe blood plasma or urine samples. A smell wheel resembles a lazy Susan with arms that stick out and carry vials of bodily fluid.
Multiple individuals will need to donate samples because teaching a dog to identify cancer on only one cancer patient will teach the dog to find that patient instead.
Rather, training calls for using hundreds of samples from various people. If a group or organization is currently doing the same work and training in your broader area, we suggest approaching them about collaborating on the training.
You would require an institution already collaborating with a laboratory or medical facility to obtain access to such smell samples. After gaining access to samples, you can combine scenting and alerting.
For example, if you tell a dog to bark when they smell a cancer sample, you can attach a “speak” cue to a verbal command. Once the dog starts to correlate the odor with being instructed to “speak” to obtain a reward, you can gradually remove the voice command.
The operation then involves developing consistency. The dog should always detect accurately and not misidentify other related odors or healthy samples The goal is to train the dog to recognize only that one distinction in the samples.
Conclusion For “How Do Dogs Act When They Smell Cancer”
To summarize, dogs have an excellent sense of smell which helps in cancer detection because cancerous cells in the body leave traces that give off a smell. Many dogs have been reported to have saved their owners’ lives in this way.
When dogs detect cancer, they are likely to keep smelling or licking one area of your body. They will also likely follow you and sit close to you to comfort you.
If you find this guide, “How Do Dogs Act When They Smell Cancer,” helpful, you can check out these other dog-related articles from our team:
- Is Food Coloring Safe For Dogs?
- How Much is Tramadol For Dogs Safe?
- Everything You Need to Know About Dog Nipples
You can learn more about dogs detecting cancer by watching “Dogs Can Smell Cancer” down below:
Andy is a full-time animal rescuer and owner of a toy doodle. When he’s not saving dogs, Andy is one of our core writers and editors. He has been writing about dogs for over a decade. Andy joined our team because he believes that words are powerful tools that can change a dog’s life for the better.
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