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Dog Detectors--Proof Dogs Can Find Cancer

Updated on December 22, 2008

Did You Know Dogs Sniff Out Cancer And Tumors?

Dogs sniff out Cancer...the verdict is in. This is some informational text and articles as well as my take on the subject.

Smelling is one of those things we know dogs are great at. Most of us have felt a cold, wet nose in places we'd rather not mention as a dog says hello. Everywhere they go, everything they see, they sniff it. Now, scientific studies, and real life results are proving a dog's nose is a lot more important than for over-friendly greetings.

Just as some dogs are gifted at training as seeing eye dogs, some are police drug sniffer dogs, some have an uncanny sense for sniffing out cancer in humans. Early detection in aggressive diseases is a matter of life or death when it comes to cancer, and some dogs have a proven ability to detect the killer condition before even modern medicine.

It's not something being regularly utilized, but there have been some excellent stories from dog owners about their pet detecting cancer in family members. So much so, studies we launched into proving this. I'm not going to bore you with full reports the scientific details of proving something we dog lovers have no trouble believing about canine talents. Instead, I'd like to share with you some of the stories of grateful owners, and the life-saving noses of their dogs.

Then I'll share some more of my opinions with you on the subject. I hope some of you will have your own stories to share or at least an opinion on the subject.

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See The Press Release

Details of the study are on this video. You'll be amazed.

I'm not so much surprised as I am in awe of the way humans and their technology are often humbled by nature.

Olfactory detection of human bladder cancer by dogs: proof of principle study

Abstract From Paper


To determine whether dogs can be trained to identify people with bladder cancer on the basis of urine odor more successfully than would be expected by chance alone.


Experimental, "proof of principle" study in which six dogs were trained to discriminate between urine from patients with bladder cancer and urine from diseased and healthy controls and then evaluated in tests requiring the selection of one bladder cancer urine sample from six controls.


36 male and female patients (age range 48-90 years) presenting with new or recurrent transitional cell carcinoma of the bladder (27 samples used for training; 9 used for formal testing); 108 male and female controls (diseased and healthy, age range 18-85 years-54 samples used in training; 54 used for testing).

Main outcome measure

Mean proportion of successes per dog achieved during evaluation, compared with an expected value of 1 in 7 (14%).


Taken as a group, the dogs correctly selected urine from patients with bladder cancer on 22 out of 54 occasions. This gave a mean success rate of 41% (95% confidence intervals 23% to 58% under assumptions of normality, 26% to 52% using bootstrap methods), compared with 14% expected by chance alone. Multivariate analysis suggested that the dogs' capacity to recognize a characteristic bladder cancer odor was independent of other chemical aspects of the urine detectable by urinalysis.


Dogs can be trained to distinguish patients with bladder cancer on the basis of urine odor more successfully than would be expected by chance alone. This suggests that tumor related volatile compounds are present in urine, imparting a characteristic odor signature distinct from those associated with secondary effects of the tumor, such as bleeding, inflammation, and infection.

This abstract information is provided free from Medical Publication Of The Year. The link to the full report is directly below.

Dog 'sniffs out' owner's cancer--BBC News Report - Beamish The Rottweiler Is Pictured

A man from North Oxfordshire has credited his pet Rottweiler with sniffing out his skin cancer.

Chris Tuffrey, from Banbury, had a mole on his chest for 15 years but "put his head in the sand" and ignored it.

But he said thanks to his dog Beamish "nuzzling and licking" him and trying to lift his arm near the mole, he went to a doctor to get it checked out.

Within a two weeks, melanoma was confirmed by the hospital and the cancerous mole was removed.

Mr Tuffrey said when Beamish began nuzzling him he thought, "what's wrong with me".

When he visited his doctor in Deddington and was immediately referred to Oxford's Churchill Hospital.

Within a fortnight, melanoma was confirmed and the cancerous mole was removed.

Mr Tuffrey's case is not unique. Scientists have found in trials, dogs have detected cancers in the urine of patients despite medical tests giving negative results.

Mr Tuffrey considers Beamish a very special friend.

"He's absolutely brilliant," he said.

"He's a very laid back dog, and I shall be grateful to him for the rest of my life."

With Thanks permission to use for non-commercial purposes. Any proceeds from this page are donated to the ASPCA

Wrigley The Wonder Dog

Wrigley The Wonder Dog
Wrigley The Wonder Dog

Wrigley Sniffs Owner, Steve Werner's, Rare Tumor.

Steve Werner's constant ringing in the ear had him at the doctors before Wrigley, a Golden Retriever, began to sniff Steve's Ear. The vague symptoms of occasional ringing in his ears plus a general feeling that something wasn't right prompted him to go for tests at his doctor's. All Tests came back negative for the usual causes to tinnitus.

Shortly after, Wrigley behaved strangely. Each day man and dog would curl together seeking solace for the loss of sister to Wrigley they'd lost earlier. Wrigley would focus on his right ear, continually sniffing at it.

"I thought it was just a friendly sniff," Werner said. "But after four or five days, I realized she seemed to be focusing on something. At some point, I noticed she was always sniffing at the opening of my right ear. She would set herself up and intently smell my ear."

Werner watched TV and saw a feature on 60 minutes about dogs who'd successfully identified cancer in their owners or family members. It was enough to get him straight back to his doctor's office.

An MRI revealed a brain tumor as big as a ping pong ball also spread to the inner canal of his right ear.

The tumor was diagnosed as a rare non-malignant tumor called acoustic schwannoma. It could still have caused a stroke or permanent facial paralysis.

After surgery in Los Angeles, the tumor was successfully removed. Steve sustained some temporary facial paralysis but he and Wrigley are doing well.

This content is derived from an article featured in issue 10 of House Calls magazine, published by the House Ear Institute, and can be found at

See the PDF of the full article in the link list at the bottom of the page.

Werner's surgeon Dr. Derald Brackmann, of the House Ear Clinic, says...

"Call it luck or call it science we don't understand, Wrigley did bring Steve to treatment, and that was certainly fortuitous."

Adds Werner: "I'm blessed to have her as part of my life."

Nancy Best is sure her dog Mia saved her life. - SAN ANSELMO, California (CNN)

Six years ago, Nancy was napping on her couch at home in Garberville, California, when Mia pounced and buried her nose in her right breast. Nancy thought nothing of it -- until over the next few days Mia did it three more times in the exact same spot.

The third time, Mia plunged with such force it hurt. Nancy reached to the spot Mia kept nosing at and felt a lump. She went to her doctor, and the biopsy came back positive: Stage II breast cancer.

Nancy underwent surgery and chemotherapy, and says she is alive today because of Mia.

See Full Article on housed in the link list below.

"Canine scent detection of cancer was something that was anecdotally discussed for decades..."

"...but we felt it was appropriate to design a rigorous study that seriously investigated this topic to better evaluate its effectiveness."

Nicholas Broffman, executive director of the Pine Street Foundation.

National Geographic News--Dogs Smell Cancer in Patients' Breath, Study Shows - Stefan Lovgren for National Geographic News January 12, 2006

"Dogs can detect if someone has cancer just by sniffing the person's breath, a new study shows.

Ordinary household dogs with only a few weeks of basic "puppy training" learned to accurately distinguish between breath samples of lung- and breast-cancer patients and healthy subjects."

Stefan Lovgren

for National Geographic News

January 12, 2006

Read the Full National Geographic News Article housed in the link list below for your reference

So now we have some samples of proof under our belts...

Let's get started with my opinion

I find this topic remarkable and as it can save lives, it is a more than just a novelty subject.

Apart from being a dog lover, Cancer has had a huge effect on my life. I haven't had it, but so many of my family and friends have either had the disease in some form or are closely related to those who have.

It's scary to think that most of us will either get cancer or be closely related to someone in our lives who will. To think that a family pet might be able to detect cancer through chemical changes they can smell way before any human technology can, is just amazing.

But what does this mean? Will modern technology be replaced by an army of cloned cancer-sniffing dogs? No, not at all. However the cloned is not so far fetched. Pups have already been cloned with the cancer sniffing ability enhanced.

Yes they will have a place in identifying possible infections, but they won't be replacing the methods we use now anytime soon. Further testing and training will continue and if you'd like to know more about this you can click through on the Pine Street Foundation Link, in the link list below.

Here they have been training been training and testing pups to identify the presence of cancer. There are ways you can get on board to help as well.

Across the net you'll find many, many more stories from dog owners who attribute their pets to saving their lives.

One way experts are trying is to identify why a dog has such a heightened sense of smell and reproduce that in an electronic device. A super nose is being worked on and perhaps one day people can regularly walk through a scanner and have things identified.

From a domestic animal to perhaps one of the most technologically advanced medical diagnosis tool yet. Mind boggling isn't it?

It is recommended that if you have any concerns regarding your dog's behavior toward you in this way, to get checked out by your doctor. Certainly don't panic and try to self diagnose. It also isn't a good idea to go trying to breed a fleet of trained cancer sniffers yourself. There are many things that can affect the outcome of an experiment.

Those of you that have ever conducted a scientific experiment know that every possible angle must be covered and adequate controls must be in place to measure results by. The only way we are going to see this form of diagnosis progress is from these stringent scientific studies.

It may seem to be a slow and tedious track to take. But in the end it is solid evidence that we need, and not information that could change with a lot of if's and buts.

Accuracy in breed of dog might be a good area to narrow down. Although dogs that are more predisposed to being sniffers have not been focused on. So far it has not been proven that one dog breed over another has a better success rate. Mixed breeds are rating as well in the training at the Pine Street Foundation.

I'd like to see if some breeds might have a higher success rate on a continual basis than others. of course, this would mean a heck of a lot of breeds test. Perhaps one day they might narrow a few down. It seems Golden Retrievers and Labradors have a strong showing in personal stories.

I guess if a dog is trainable then theoretically it should be able to do this. But from a home point of view, even if the dog can smell an abnormality, would it have the ability, or even the opportunity, to alert the person?

Will this depend on how the dog is treated? If a dog gets told to go away every time it goes near an owner then possibly the chance could be missed. Would it need to be one of those types of dogs that love sniffing people? Or would it be owners who are physically close to their dog that would see the most benefit?

All these questions. Answers will likely fall back to personal opinion for now. If dogs are cloned and trained from an early age, will screening clinics for those who wish to use it as another avenue to remain cancer free be set up?

The whole process and future speculation about this is sparking the interest of many. I think it is a subject that will snowball as studies are released, and our technology increases.

Pine Street Foundation--How You Can Get Involved

And maybe your dog too!


There are many ways you can help us to further research in this emerging field:

» Funding. Support from individuals is incredibly important. If you are interested in continuing this research, please make a donation. 92% of our funding comes from individuals like you.

Additionally, should you know of any foundations or individuals who might also be interested in supporting us, please pass the word along.

» Replicate Our Study. For researchers, we actively encourage you to learn more about our current study and to build and improve upon it through new research.

» Get the Word Out. The more people who know about this work, the better. Please share us with your friends and colleagues.

Information from Pines Street Foundation Website.

Find Donation links in the original article link below.

"It did not seem to matter which dog it was or which stage cancer it was, in terms of our results," Nicholas Broffman, Executive Director of the Pine Street Foundation.

Have a story of your own to share? - I'd love your opinion on this subject too

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    • profile image


      5 years ago

      @anonymous: Leo: I saw your post & am having a similar issue! My dog has recently started licking my hand. She has never done that before. She did however lick a relative for several months. My relative was diagnosed with late stage cancer. I can't think of what the health issue may be. I am concerned.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I have an old english bulldog with a very keen sense of smell and she sits next to me on the couch and I usually have my computer on a small table. While operating the mouse my dog has been constantly sniffing the right side of my hand...its been driving me crazy with the constant sniffing and lightly touching her nose to my hand when I am working but I have a strange feeling... I don't have any lumps, skin blemishes, or anything else obvious that would explain her behaviour,. I see her stare at my hand, then get up and continue sniffing...I hate to run to the doctor and tell him I think there is something wrong cause my dog sniffs my hand (that would sound crazy) but is something she has been doing for the last couple weeks or so and never did before so has me a bit concerned.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Even an untrained dog can find cancer if an owner knows their dog. Check out the youtube from the Diane Sawyer of a week ago.

    • Aquavel profile image


      9 years ago

      Wonderful lens! I've read a couple of things about a seeing eye dog finding cancer and I think a collie with this ability as well, but I had no idea that many, or all, dogs have this ability. Amazing! 5*s!


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