Can dogs detect diseases in people?
Any time I start feeling sick, it seems that my Doberman, Nina, is right by my side. She instinctively protects me when I am feeling down.
And, it is not just me in whom she can sense changes. A member of my team is pregnant and before seeing that pink plus sign on a pregnancy test, Nina was protectively guarding her belly from other dogs jumping on her.
Dogs and humans share a special connection – after all, a dog is man’s best friend. But, did you know that dogs can sense changes important changes in the human body? In fact, dogs can not only sense and affect your emotions, but can alert you of serious medical conditions that you may otherwise miss.
WHAT CAN DOGS SENSE?
Dogs can sense several changes in people just by being near them. For example, studies show that your dog can sense your emotions when you are feeling depressed. But that’s not all dogs can sense. Dogs can also sniff out:
- Low blood sugar in people with diabetes
- Seizures and impending seizures, specifically in people with epilepsy
- Cancer (including ovarian, skin, lung, bowel, and prostate cancer, as well as bladder cancer, which dogs correctly diagnosed with 90 percent accuracy in recent studies)
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Pregnancy and fetal distress (while pregnancy is not a disease, it is definitely a major change that dogs can catch before people)
- Panic attacks and anxiety
- Cold virus, COVID-19, and influenza
While this list is not exhaustive, it is amazing. Dogs can also be used for therapy for some of these conditions when trained properly. For example, emotional support dogs can provide relief for people suffering from PTSD or panic disorders, and dogs trained to sniff out low blood sugar can be life-saving to those with diabetes.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Dogs have an incredibly strong sense of smell. With over 220 million scent receptors (compared to humans’ 5 million receptors), a dog’s sense of smell is anywhere from 10,000 to 100,000 times stronger than humans, according to PBS. Using those scent receptors, dogs can pick up on even the most minuscule shifts in the human body and can pick up on smells that are completely undetectable to humans. This is why drug-sniffing dogs and dogs on search-and-rescue teams are so vitally important.
Dogs can also pick up on volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the air and in other places. VOCs are microscopic compounds emitted into the air as gas or liquid, which are made by both man-made and biological materials. Humans can smell some of them too, for example, when you open a can of paint and smell the fumes, you are smelling VOCs. For dogs, these smells are magnified and are everywhere.
Dogs can often sniff out changes just by being near humans, but in recent years they have also been trained to sniff out trace amounts of VOCs and other compounds in human breath, blood, urine, and sweat samples. While the research is still being conducted to discern the accuracy of a dog diagnosing cancer in a human from a blood sample, scientists are finding that dogs may be a great resource.
DO ALL DOGS HAVE THIS ABILITY?
It is important to remember that different breeds are better at different things. Your dog may be aware of your bodily changes, especially if you and your dog share a close connection, but certain dogs have a stronger sense of smell than others. Most dogs who routinely detect things like cancer or low blood sugar are specially trained to sniff specific issues out.
In many cases, if you and your dog have a close bond, they can help be your first line of defense if you are not sure about going to the doctor. My rule of thumb is that if I feel like something is off in my body and my dog is acting strangely around me, I should call the doctor and make myself an appointment.
Just like your pet can sense changes in you, you should also pay attention to changes you notice in your pet. While you may not rely on your sense of smell like a dog does, it is important to make mental note of your pets’ baseline for behavior so that if they begin suffering from allergies or anxiety you can more easily figure out the cause.
If your pet is suffering from ailments of their own, like seizures, tumors, cancer, or anxiety, CBD can help them. Full spectrum hemp CBD from CBD Dog Health can provide dogs with natural relief without the dangerous side effects of prescription medications.
The connection you share with your pet can be life-saving for you both. If your pet is ever acting differently, they may be trying to tell you something. My advice? Listen to them.