CALGARY, Alberta — Canines have long been praised for their sense of smell and their ability to potentially sniff out an array of problems in a human, from cancer to an impending seizure. Yet it has only been over the last couple of decades, that scientists have really started to pay attention to their abilities and trying to determine how accurate dogs are in their detection. Since one of the first reports was published on the topic, in 1989 in the UK medical journal The Lancet, scientists have conducted a number of studies that have resulted in a detection success rate of 90% or even more sometimes.
In a 2011 study, six dogs were given urine samples to sniff as a means to detect the individuals with the bladder cancer, resulting in a 92% accuracy in detection among the participants. In another 2011 study, one dog was given various samples of urine, some of them from healthy males and some of them from men with prostate cancer. The dog used in the study, detected the prostate cancer 90% of the time. Since 2013, four medical dogs working for the Penn Vet Working Dog Center at the University of Pennsylvania, have had a 90% success rate in detecting ovarian cancer from blood samples. In addition to that, the first center of its kind in Canada, the Clever Canines, has had their working dogs detect lung cancer from breath samples with an accuracy of 95%.
The Clever Canines, opened in 2014 in Calgary, has been striving to train even more dogs to eventually detect different forms of cancer other than lung, like breast, prostate and colon cancer. With each dog costing $36,000 to train, it will take time to get the center to the level they want it to be at. The reason dogs are particularly advanced in early cancer detection is because they have the ability to zone in on and pinpoint smells within blood, urine and breath, amongst others, without getting distracted and clouded by other smells. Studies have revealed that certain machines can’t pinpoint smells with such accuracy and especially not at such an early stage within individuals. Prevention is key, so early detection could mean a great deal for healing patients before they get really sick. Meet the dogs that work in the cancer detection department at Clever Canines in the gallery below.