Skip to main content

The Sniff Sense: How Dogs Detect Diseases


Dogs are very nurturing animals, especially when it comes to their owners. You always hear about dogs saving their human companions, and the latest story to hit the headlines is about a dog who kept a missing boy safe, warm and alive when the little boy got lost in the woods. Another way dogs protect and save is by sniffing out and detecting diseases in humans.

There’s no denying dogs have a killer sense of smell. It’s actually 100,000 times more sensitive than ours. Dogs are capable of smelling everything from drugs to electricity to underground gas pipes and ovulating animals. But, the most amazing things dogs can sniff out are cancer, epilepsy and diabetes. By just smelling a patient’s urine, they can sniff out bladder cancer and they can diagnose early and late lung and breast cancer by smelling your breath. Dogs have also helped discover ovarian cancer and skin cancer since affected cells give off a different smell than healthy ones. How amazing is that?

What’s more amazing is that dogs are accurate 97 percent of the time compared to million dollar machines that only have a 90 percent accuracy rate. How do they do it? Certain diseases leave biomarkers that are secreted through urine or breath and dogs have the ability to detect these biomarkers in concentrations as diluted as a few parts per trillion.

Scroll to Continue

From the Organic Authority Files

Along with illnesses like cancer, dogs can also warn owners of blood-sugar drops, heart attacks and seizures. Instead of sniffing it out, dogs react to subtle changes in your behavior and eventually learn to remember those changes as markers. Dogs also learn to stay with and comfort their owners in times of need.

Scientists are now researching how the smells of certain diseases differ so they can use the same technique as dogs to detect illnesses and treat them early on. So, if your dog is acting strange around you, always sniffing at a different spot, or scratching, licking or biting a specific spot on your body, they may know something you don’t know. Watch your pup’s cues for a happy, healthy life.

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook

Image: Muffet

Shop Editors' Picks

Related Stories