Can dogs really sniff out cancer in humans?

Dogs are incredible creatures. Ask any dog owner and they can tell you how smart their dog is. Certain pets may show their affection in different ways or be so intuitive that it shocks their human companions. Did you know dogs can also sniff out cancer? They’re great healers and can even tell you new things about yourself.

How Can Dogs Tell When Their Owners Are Sick?

If you have a pet dog, you’ll notice when your dog starts treating you differently or acting abnormally around you when you don’t feel well. Your pup can sense changes in your routine and your body chemistry, to the point that you smell slightly different as a result of sickness. Their keen nose can pick up on that smell.

Dogs are healing animals. They want to be by your side whenever possible, which doesn’t change when you’re sick. You may notice your dog sticking even closer to you when you don’t feel well. Consider changing your routine — like getting more sleep to boost your immune system — so you don’t have to worry your dog as much or suffer from illnesses.

Your dog can also read your emotions and know you aren’t feeling good, so they might do things to cheer you up, like bring you their favorite toy or ask to go on a walk. You can reinforce these behaviors by praising your pup for sticking close to you when you feel crummy.

Can Untrained Dogs Sniff Out Cancer?

A pet dog detecting the sickness of its owner is one thing, but can untrained dogs smell cancer in strangers? Dogs don’t need to be trained to recognize illness. They know what their owners are supposed to smell like and differences — even in the early stages of disease — can sound alarm bells in their heads. They might not realize how devastating cancer is, but they can pick up on it without special training.

Here are some of the different cancers dogs may be able to detect:

  • Lung cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Melanoma
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Brain cancer
  • Bladder cancer

Cancer is not a battle to take lightly. For example, though cervical cancer may affect around 13,000 people per year, it accounts for 0.7% of cancer deaths annually. Early detection is critical to fighting against cancer, as is supporting the scientific breakthroughs that happen every day. Having a dog around might make a difference in your life. Trained dogs are even paving the way for new cancer-detecting technology to exist.

An untrained dog may not be able to detect cancers as quickly as a dog who has gone through special training, but their instincts still should not be counted out. Some dogs can detect lung cancer by just smelling a person’s breath.

Can Dogs Detect Cancer By Licking?

Dogs are unique creatures and they try to communicate with humans in different ways. Since cancer detection is mainly linked to smell, dogs don’t necessarily detect cancers by licking. However, they may demonstrate licking as a way to indicate there’s something wrong with the affected area.

A Jack Russell Terrier named Sox detected her owner’s cancer two years before it was diagnosed by a professional by licking the same spot on his head. Another dog in the family also followed suit and eventually, the family thought nothing of it. The father collapsed one day, leading to him getting checked out — and discovering there was a tumor in the same spot the dogs had noticed years before.

Another story comes from a 75-year-old man who sought help in 2013 after his dog continued to lick a lesion behind his ear, which ended up being melanoma. Malignant melanoma is the most severe type of skin cancer and a dog was able to identify it in their owner — and get them to take the canine diagnosis seriously. Though dogs can’t verbally communicate with their owners, their licks can say a lot.

In those stories, those dogs could have saved their owners’ lives with their ability to sniff out cancer. They have an innate ability to notice small changes before humans do, so if you see a new pattern in their behavior, you may need to get checked out. You never know when early intervention could save your life, just like it did for Sox’s dad and the 75-year-old man.

What Breed of Dog Can Smell Cancer?

Though any dog breed can sniff out cancer, it’s understandable why you might want the best of the best. All kinds of dogs are likely to smell cancers, but these are the ones with the keenest sense of smell.

1. Bloodhound
Bloodhounds are the greatest sniffers in the canine world. They can track down missing people and sniff out whatever you need them to. They’re also great family dogs who play well with children and other dogs.

2. German Shepherd
These dogs are intelligent and require training to handle well. Still, German Shepherds are courageous and affectionate, making them great companions. A German Shepherd could be your new favorite breed once you experience them.

3. Beagles
Beagles don’t necessarily have the strongest sniffers out of all dogs, but they can detect cancers with 97% accuracy, making them valuable dogs for anyone concerned about their health. Beagles are vocal as well, so they’ll definitely let you know when they think something is wrong.

How a Dog Knows to Sniff Out Cancer

Dogs are pack animals and they want to look out for the people they consider their family. As such, they don’t want illnesses or diseases to spread and can sense those things right away. Your dog loves you and wants to ensure you’re all right, so they’ll try to notify you of any changes when they can. Both trained and untrained dogs can sniff out cancers, and their abilities can help pave the way for a more hopeful future with cancer treatments.