Can dogs smell Cancer?

Has your dog ever showed strange behaviour around you, for you to only find out that the mole or "sore" you have / had is actually cancer?  Read about this interesting fact and make yourself more alert to your pets behaviour the next time they try to tell you in their sniffing and licking ways.

Cancer affects everyone, not just humans, as dogs and cats can also suffer from cancer.  If your pet has any of the following symptoms, it is important to visit the vet if you have any concerns.  While no one sign indicates cancer, if two or more are present, the animal should be taken to a vet to be properly diagnosed and treated.  Humans too should also take note of the list as early detection saves lives. 

Signs to watch for include:

  • lumps and bumps;
  • abnormal odours;
  • abnormal discharges;
  • non–healing wounds;
  • weight loss, change in appetite;
  • coughing or difficulty breathing;
  • lethargy and depression;
  • changes in bathroom habits;
  • evidence of pain. 

A big breakthrough in recent years is the fact animals can detect cancer in humans. 
There have been numerous incidents:

  • Nancy Best noticed her dog kept sniffing and licking her right breast – doctors discovered breast cancer. 
  • Wendy Humphreys cat kept jumping up and sitting on her right breast whenever she lay down.  Wendy said although the breast hurt she thought it was bruised due to Fidge, the cat, jumping up.  Her doctor discovered she had breast cancer.
  • In 1989 in London there was a case of a woman who went to the doctor regards a mole on her leg.  It was a small, slightly raised blemish on the skin and she was told it was benign and not to worry.  However her dog, half Border Collie, half Doberman Pinscher, would not stop sniffing at the leg.  She kept telling the dog to go away but to no avail.  A few weeks later, the woman was wearing shorts while working in her garden and the mole was exposed.  The dog pounced on her and nipped at the mole trying to bite it off.  As the dog had never attacked her before she was concerned but then realised the dog had ignored all the other moles she had.  After seeing a specialist dermatologist the mole was removed and found to be malignant.  The doctors said had it been left any longer it would have spread rapidly and killed her.

Research has shown that malignant tissue releases chemicals that are different from normal tissue.  A human has about 5 million scent glands whereas a dog, depending on the breed, has anywhere from 125 to 300 million.  It’s therefore no wonder they can detect certain odours. 

While these are only a selection of incidents, numerous studies have shown dogs and to a lesser extent cats, are amazingly accurate at detecting certain cancers by smelling breath or urine samples.  The breed of dog doesn’t matter and nor the stage of cancer.  While your canine or feline friend won’t be sent to work anytime soon, more research is being done into detecting the scent of cancer.

Article by: Lucy Payne

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