Dogs Sniff Out Cancer

Photo courtesy of University of Pennsylvania's Working Dog Center

Photo courtesy of University of Pennsylvania’s Working Dog Center

At Kendall-Will Bark Busters Home Dog Training, we have long known that dogs are remarkable creatures. For many years, they have been trained as seeing-eye dogs to help those who are sight impaired and more recently to help soldiers suffering from PTSD. Their amazing sense of smell has enabled them to sniff out bombs and drugs and even help people buried in the rubble of an earthquake.

At times, their powers seem limitless.

Bloodhounds Make The Best Detectives
Bloodhounds are famous for their noses, being able to pick up a scent several days old. No wonder, considering they have 230 million olfactory receptor cells which is 40 times greater than us dog owners. Their noses are so reliable, their evidence has been used in a court of law to convict drug dealers. Read the story of Holly, once slated to be euthanized, who now works with the K-9 unit of the Massachusetts State Police to track down criminals and missing persons. Have you ever heard of the famous Kentucky bloodhound named Nick Carter? His dogged persistence led to the capture and conviction of more than 600 criminals … unbelievable!

What researchers are finding is that different breeds of dogs are best for different kinds of jobs.

Retrievers Catch the Scent
In the newest development, retrievers and Dutch or German sheperds  are being used to sniff out ovarian cancer by a team at the University of Pennsylvania’s Working Dog Center. Ovarian cancer is the eighth most common type of cancer and the fifth most common type of cancer resulting in death. Like many cancers, the earlier it is caught, the higher the survival rate.

Using scent training or imprinting, dogs are given a scent they are familiar with, such as a blanket, and then the object is covered with a substance the trainers are trying to get the dog to detect. This process is repeated over and over, reducing the size of the blanket and increasing the proportion of the scent. Eventually, the blanket is removed all together, leaving only the target scent.

In this study, the dogs were first trained to detect the scent of an ovarian tumor and then the plasma taken from the tumor. Eventually chemists break down the cancerous ovarian plasma into its individual chemical components and the dogs are trained to detect the particular chemical unique to ovarian cancer.

“The bloodhounds are trailing dogs, man-tracking dogs,” study researcher Cindy Otto, of the Penn Working Dog Center, told Business Insider. “They have really good noses. But for a lot of the other work — what we call ‘air-scenting’, where the dog raises his nose in the air and tries to find the source of a smell, those tend to be the retrievers, the hunting dogs.”

Other Examples of Life Saving Scent Detection
In 2004, a team of British scientists discovered that dogs could detect bladder cancer by simply sniffing a patient’s urine. Dogs have also been used to predict seizures in epileptics or low blood sugar in diabetics.

In fact, dogs have been used to detect more than 1800 issues.

Dogs can be amazing. And what’s even more incredible is many of these dogs were slated for death. At Bark Busters Home Dog Training Kendall Will, we hold to the philosophy that virtually any Oswego dog can be trained to live in its forever home. We may not be able to train your Oswego dog to detect cancer, but we can train your dog to be the loyal companion you want.

Ken Liddell is a dog trainer and behavioral therapist with Bark Busters Home Dog Training Kendall-Will. You can contact him at 815-715-3109.

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