Dogs Can Detect Cancer In Humans . . . and a Lot More

Lizzy001In Germany dogs have demonstrated an innate ability to sniff out the presence of lung cancer in humans.  The dog’s ability to detect the presence of cancer has been acknowledged since the late 80’s and man’s best friend has proven capable of sniffing out cancer types such as skin, bladder, bowel and breast.  Dogs are also able to detect bio-markers that signify the presence of tumors.  Scientists are still not sure how dogs are able to perform these amazing feats.

Researchers trained four dogs – two German shepherds, an Australian shepherd and a Labrador – to detect lung cancer.  Three groups of patients were tested: 110 healthy people, 60 with lung cancer and 50 with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a narrowing of the airways of the lungs.  They all breathed into a fleece filled tube, which absorbed any smells.

The dogs sniffed the tubes and sat down in front of those where they detected lung cancer smells. They were successful 71% of the time (these people keep impeccable records). The researchers showed the dogs were not getting confused by chemicals associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or smoking.

Dr Thorsten Walles, the report’s author from Schillerhoehe Hospital, said: “In the breath of patients with lung cancer, there are likely to be different chemicals to normal breath samples and the dogs’ keen sense of smell can detect this difference at an early stage of the disease.  Our results confirm the presence of a stable marker for lung cancer. This is a big step forward.”

Dogs are unlikely to become regular fixtures in doctors surgeries so researchers are working on “electronic noses” which would be able to detect the same chemical as the dog. This chemical or combination of smells has not yet been found.  As the researchers lament: “Unfortunately, dogs cannot communicate the biochemistry of the scent of cancer.”

Dr. Laura McCallum, science information officer at Cancer Research UK, said: “Although there are now some intriguing studies suggesting that dogs may be able to smell cancer in some situations, but we’re still a long way from knowing if these studies are accurate and it would be extremely difficult to use dogs in the clinic.  Further research is being carried out to learn more about these molecules that are released from tumors and whether devices such as ‘electronic noses’ could help sniff them out.”

I find it interesting that doctors, the learned that walk among us, are so surprised and baffled by the ability of mere canines to do as well or better than their incredibly expensive tools can do.  I think Lizzy, a double blue merle Aussie who passed into dog heaven in 2004, would have baffled them even further.  Lizzy loved the outdoors and water, yet she lived her whole life in an apartment building filled with elderly people who she adopted as her pack.  Micki would often take Lizzy for evening walks through the building and this dog knew her job. She would stop at the door of the tenant most in need of her services; this could be personal loneliness to extreme physical distress, whatever the greatest pull was, and Lizzy was accurate 100% of the time.

Lizzy brought light to many people and perhaps saved a few lives. She was very powerful for an Aussie, weighing around 70+ pounds, and could not be intimidated by any dog, yet she was amazingly gentle with people with good motives. She would not tolerate aggressive behavior from anyone directed at her pack, or any child or relatively defenseless person – or even another animal for that matter – and could change into a snarling guard dog in an instant. Once, when Lizzy was getting old and arthritis had inhibited her movements, an intruder smashed in the apartment door while Micki was in the kitchen washing dishes. Lizzy moved very fast and leapt through the air intent on sinking her teeth into the arm that was shoving the door open. Micki heard an expletive and running feet and came out into the dining room to see Lizzy coiled like a lion and growling at the ruined door. Lizzy was an amazing dog in many ways, and when she passed there was hardly a dry eye in the building where her pack lived.

Dogs simply want to be tuned into humans, and when given a chance they often amaze us.

On the lighter side, a reporter interviewed actress Eva Mendes about an incident when her dog wrecked her windshield. It seems she and Hugo, her Belgian Malinois, were on their way home when he spotted a coyote on the side of the road. Hugo, whom she says is “a really sweet attack dog,” was not content to just wave to his distant cousin from the back seat. “He’s fully trained, fully equipped. And he’s in the back and I’m driving and a coyote runs across… and for some reason Hugo goes ballistic- becomes crazy. His instincts kick in. He just thinks, ‘Kill coyote before coyote kills mama!’”

“So he leaps across and all my windows are closed and he’s going insane against the windshield. So I have to pull the car over and get some kind of control over the situation, being the pack leader that I am. I look over to my windshield and it’s completely shattered.”

The reporter didn’t buy this story and further wrote: He’s fully equipped? In this context it must mean that the dog had a sledgehammer. From what I gather, windshields are very resistant to dogs. Windshields are made of laminated glass, which is meant to withstand the impact of fast-flying projectiles. Apparently the fast-flying projectile named Hugo was too much for it. Hugo (who is apparently doing just fine, not injured at all) is also far stronger than the reporter in the story below, who should not quit his day job to become an auto thief.

What the reporter “gathered” is a lack of knowledge about the situation, to wit: Had a friend, Stan, an elderly gentleman who travelled a lot by car and had various unusual pets, such as a cheetah that sat in the back seat and hissed at people passing by, causing them to do a double take and move briskly out of there. He also had an oversize boxer, Buddy, who was far more pro-active than the cheetah and liked to ride up front. Now Stan always pulled up to the full service pumps in his Olds 98 and Buddy, being ever alert to intrusion, took particular exception to anyone who tried to wash the windshield of the car while the tank was being filled. Buddy was very strong and fast and protective and he took out three windshields on that Olds.

I once asked Stan why he kept taking Buddy along when he went to the station, windshields being a fairly expensive item to keep replacing, and he said, “Well, you know, he likes to stick his head out the window when we get going fast, and he can tell by the smell when I come in the door if I went out on the freeway without him. Last time I did that he chewed up his food dish and slung the slimy pieces at me.”

Posted in Barks: Dog News

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