Whenever anyone in our family is feeling down or sick, mysteriously, our cat, dog or both show up to provide comfort. It’s clear humans have mental capabilities above and beyond those of animals but recent events suggest humans should give animals more credit for what they can do.
Cancer Detecting Dogs
Each year over 230,000 men in the US are diagnosed with prostate cancer leading to 27,000 deaths. And each year 22,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer with 14,000 deaths.
Now a new study, presented at the 109th Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Urological Association by Italian researchers, and published in Medical News Today, suggests that dogs are capable of detecting cancer with 98% accuracy using a superior sense of smell. Humans have over 5 million olfactory cells while dogs have more than 200 million olfactory cells in their noses.
Researchers around the world are now studying dogs’ ability to detect a variety of cancers including prostate, ovarian, and more. Dogs are able to smell “volatile organic compounds” (VOCs) that show up in urine samples. In one study of 677 participants, 320 of whom had prostate cancer and 357 controls, dogs identified patients with cancer with 98% accuracy.
According to Dr. Brian Stork at the West Shore Urology in Michigan:
“These data show analysis of volatile organic compounds in urine is a promising approach to cancer detection.
The possibility of using dogs to identify cancer is something most would never have considered possible a decade or two ago. It’s an interesting concept that ‘man’s best friend’ could help save your life.”
Fortunately the advent of social media is beginning to clearly show animals in their true light: elephants painting pictures and dancing to New Orleans jazz, dogs doing yoga in unison with their masters and dolphins playing with human babies at dockside. It seems humans have under-appreciated the empathy and awareness of animals.