Dogs Can Detect Prostate Cancer 4x Better Than Modern Tests

Finally, we have found a way to capitalize on our dogs’ long-standing affinity for sniffing rear ends.

Recent studies are showing that trained dogs are nearly four times better than modern testing when it comes to detecting prostate cancer.

The Facts

Prostate-specific antigen (or PSA) tests, in which blood is tested for a protein produced by the prostate, have been the most reliable and least invasive way to determine whether or not a man has prostate cancer. However, even that test frequently produces a false positive. In fact, 75% of positive PSA tests turn out to be incorrect, meaning that 3 out of 4 people receiving the bad news had no reason to be put under such stress.

Our canine compatriots, on the other hand, can detect prostate cancer with roughly 90% accuracy. And while this may be initially surprising, should it be? Dogs have been used for their keen sense of smell for hundreds of years. From tracking game, to sniffing out drugs and explosives, dogs’ well-honed schnozzes have been exceptionally useful tools for numerous tasks. And pair that with their ability to learn and perform various jobs, it should come as no surprise that, with the proper training, dogs can detect nearly anything.

RELATED STORY: Your Dog Knows Your Smell, Even From Afar

How Do These Dogs Do it?

Dogs have the ability to pick up scents that are as diluted as one part per thousand, thanks to their 200-million-some-odd nasal olfactory receptors (compared to the paltry 6 million we humans are equipped with). It’s that keen sense of smell that makes dogs such natural trackers. In order to use that ability to detect cancer, dogs can be specially trained to sniff out certain chemicals produced by prostate tumors in urine.

In a recent study by Dr. Jean-Nicolas Cornu of Tenon Hospital, out of the 66 tests that were done, Medical Detection Dogs were spot on 63 times, with only 3 false positives in the batch. That is an almost unheard of success rate for a test of this nature.

Skeptics are bringing up some concerns with the initial test, saying the sample size is too small to be making claims, or that the dogs may have been picking up on subconscious cues from researchers. Still, this test does open up the a whole new way to think about testing for diseases.

What do you think about using dogs to help detect cancer? Leave a comment and let us know! Also, consider signing up for PetPlus, a benefit program for pet owners that provides member-only access to medications at wholesale prices, plus discounts on food, supplies, boarding and more.

Counsel Heal – Dogs are Four Times More Effective Than Prostate Cancer Tests
WebMD – Dogs Sniff Out Prostate Cancer
Daily Mail – Dogs are FOUR times better at detecting prostate cancer than traditional tests


How Dog Diseases Can Inform Human Medicine

Ever since dogs first came into contact with humans, they have been serving us in extraordinary ways. Dogs are not only our companions, they can also herd, help us hunt, and be trained to work as service dogs, therapy dogs, police dogs, and military dogs. And according to recent studies, dogs can now provide another benefit to humans by allowing us to study their diseases.

Disease-Causing Genes

Domestic dogs can suffer from hundreds of the same diseases as people can, and the diseases present in similar ways. While that may not be a happy thought, what it means is that we can study our four-legged friends in order to better understand and find new therapies for human hereditary diseases.

Dogs are great study subjects because they make it easy to find disease-causing genes (much easier than it is in people). This is because domestic breeding of dogs has resulted in some inbreeding, and thus the spread of certain disease-causing genes within certain breeds. This type of breeding also means that all dogs within a certain breed are genetically similar, and therefore disease-causing genes can be identified in smaller groups of dogs as opposed to thousands of human patients and controls.

More Than Just Genes

Dogs are useful in studying human diseases not only because we can examine their disease-causing genes, but also because they share our environments.

This is important because things in our environments — including stressors and what we eat — can directly impact how genes are expressed, and so environmental factors that influence disease formation in humans can also affect our dogs.

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We’re Seeing Results

The study of diseases in dogs has already had some amazing results. Some studies have influenced the development of a new gene therapy for hemophilia, and another study that identified the genetic basis of narcolepsy in dogs allowed researchers to discover a previously unknown pathway in the brain.

It will be fascinating to see what else this partnership between human and veterinary medicine can accomplish.

Read the BBC’s full article.

For all the good that dogs can do for us, we should do good for them, too. Take care of your pet’s health by keeping up with veterinary visits, and consider signing up for PetPlus to save on your pet’s medications, boarding, and more.