Dogs: Great Companions and May Help to Detect Cancer

Dogs come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Like humans, they have different personalities. Some have been described as cute and cuddly, while others are loved for being energetic, playful, fiercely loyal, and even a bit mischievous. While dogs are a big responsibility, we commit to caring for them because the rewards of their companionship outweigh the cons of dog ownership.

What are the health benefits of having a dog as a pet?

Having a dog in your life can do wonders for your physical and mental health, especially if you’re the type of dog owner who exercises or plays with your dog. Take your dog on runs or hikes. Play with them at the park or in your backyard. The time you spend together having fun not only deepens your connection but helps you both keep healthy and fit.

The companionship of a dog also offers comfort, helping ease stress, anxiety, and feelings of loneliness. Researchers have long suspected that your mental state has a big impact on your physical health. Stress has been linked to numerous health issues, including heart disease, asthma, obesity, diabetes, headaches, gastrointestinal problems, accelerated aging, and premature death. Research also suggests that there’s a connection between chronic stress and cancer.

Can dogs detect cancer in humans?

Not only does having a dog in your life help keep you physically and mentally fit, but much research indicates that dogs can be trained to detect a variety of cancers in humans. Dogs have a heightened sense of smell. It’s been estimated that dogs have about 2 billion olfactory receptors, making their sense of smell superior to ours. After all, we only have about 40 million olfactory receptors, making a dog’s sense of smell 100,000 times more powerful than any human.

The dog’s remarkable sense of smell can detect signs of cancer in a person’s body because cancer cells can produce and release distinct odor signatures. Depending on the type of cancer, trained dogs may detect these cancer traces in a person’s sweat, breath, skin, feces, and urine.

Dogs that have been trained to detect cancer will react as taught when they sniff a specific scent. However, many stories have circulated over the decades of dogs detecting cancerous cells and alerting their owners. One dog owner shared the story of how her dog would persistently bury her snout in her owner’s lower belly and sniff intently. That woman would later discover she had ovarian cancer. Another woman had a similar experience, and her dog’s insistence on smelling her chest led to a lung cancer diagnosis. A dog was once so persistent about sniffing and staring at a bump on its owner’s nose that the owner had it checked out, allowing her to discover she had a basal cell carcinoma.

Some other types of cancer that dogs have been trained to detect include colorectal cancer, prostate cancer, melanoma, and breast cancer.

If you have ever noticed your dog sniffing areas of your body intently, you may want to pay attention. Your loyal companion may be trying to save your life.

To learn more about cancer screening, prevention, and treatment, contact Tampa Bay Radiation Oncology. At Tampa Bay Radiation Oncology, more than a thousand men and women diagnosed with cancer each year turn to our trusted team of cancer specialists. We encourage you to call us, ask us a question, or consult with us to get a second opinion so you, too, can experience the difference.