ESA dogs are deserving of their title as man’s best friend. They have excellent personalities, and they help us out in many ways. A loyal dog is by far the most popular emotional support animal and many people’s best friend.
Did you know ESA dogs have a truly incredible sense of smell? A dog’s brain is dominated by the olfactory cortex, which is approximately 40 times larger in a dog than in a human. A dog’s olfactory bulb has between 125 million to 220 million receptors, and it is up to 1 million times more sensitive than that of a human.
In fact, dogs have two “noses.” They have a second smelling organ toward the back of their nose called Jacobson’s organ. A dog’s sense of smell is so sensitive that it could detect a drop of blood in an Olympic-sized swimming pool. Dogs are truly world-champion smellers!
Dogs have been trained to use their noses to detect everything from narcotics and missing people to blood and explosives. An emotional support dog can be trained to use its nose to help its owner in a variety of ways. So with all of these amazing sniffing abilities, can ESA dogs really detect cancer in humans?
The answer seems to be a resounding yes!
Oncologists know that, in the latter stages of the disease, cancer leaves a smell on a patient’s breath that is even detectable by other humans. Although humans can detect cancer in its later stages, but dogs can detect it in its very, very early stages.
Cancerous cells release different metabolic waste products than healthy cells in the human body. A dog’s acute sense of smell, which can identify chemical traces in the range of parts per trillion, can be trained to detect this subtle scent even in the early stages of cancer. Many studies have confirmed a trained dog’s ability to sniff out various types of cancer, including ovarian, bowel, bladder, skin, lung and prostate cancer.
A British study published in the British Medical Journal found that dogs could detect bladder cancer in a patient’s urine 41 percent of the time.
The European Respiratory Journal published a study in which trained dogs identified lung cancer in 71 percent of samples taken from lung cancer patients and correctly ruled out cancer in 372 of 400 patient samples.
U.S. News and World Report printed the account of a black Labrador that correctly detected early-stage and advanced colon cancer with a 97 percent accuracy rate in a sample of 200 patients.
The Pine Street Foundation undertook a research study in which breath samples of 55 lung cancer patients, 31 breast cancer patients and 83 healthy volunteers were presented to five trained scent dogs. The dogs accurately detected or ruled out breast and lung cancer, at early and advanced stages, with approximately 90 percent accuracy.
In Tallahassee, Florida, Armand Cognetta, an expert in melanomas, enlisted the help of a dog trainer to help him study the extent to which dogs could detect skin cancer. He used samples of melanomas and trained a dog to sniff out the skin cancer. The dog used in the study could sniff out the melanoma 99 percent of the time. He was also able to detect the difference between malignant melanoma lesions and benign lesions in patients.
At the Humanitas Research Hospital in Milan, doctors took urine samples from 320 men with prostate cancer and 357 men without it. The men with cancer had the disease in various stages ranging from low-risk tumors to high-risk tumors. In the group that did not have prostate cancer, many of the men had other types of cancer. Two dogs were used in the study, and together they succeeded in detecting the prostate cancer 98 percent of the time.
These examples show that ESA dogs can be trained to be remarkably good at sniffing out many different types of cancer.
An interesting theory about why dogs may have evolved such an acute ability to sniff out cancer, even at stage zero in its development, is that it benefits them to make sure that their primary caregivers — humans — stay fit, healthy and alive. Dogs have been living side by side and co-evolving with humans for many thousands of years. Man has been good for dogs, providing them with shelter, food and protection.
But the relationship has undoubtedly been highly mutually beneficial. Emotional support dogs have always been protecting their human companions, acting as a vital support and warning them against dangers. A dog’s nose is its main tool for protecting us. Many biologists who study dog evolution believe that man might well not have made it past the pre-agricultural stage of his development without his trusty canine companion. Could it be that dogs are so good at smelling out potentially lethal cancers because it has benefited them to keep us safe and well? If we die, the dog loses out, too. Smelling disease in humans helps a dog protect its No. 1 benefactor. It’s an interesting theory.
Whatever the ultimate causal factors may be, ESA dogs are proving to be a major help in the battle against cancer, and that’s certainly nothing to be sniffed at!