Can animals detect cancer in humans?


Most pet owners and animal lovers feel a bond with their finned, feathered or four-legged friends. From celebrating their birthdays to buying them outfits, or just visiting zoos regularly and putting more suet in the bird feeder, people enjoy surrounding themselves with these wonderful creatures. However, having them in our lives may benefit us beyond the excitement of singing “happy birthday” to Fido.

In fact, it turns out that the animals in your life may feel just as much a bond with you as you do for them. Not only are many animals in tune to our changing moods and daily habits, but they can save our life by detecting cancers, well in advance of when our current technology can. If that doesn’t deserve a treat and a belly rub, I don’t know what does! Seriously, your pet may be sending you signals right now that your health is in jeopardy.

Studies show that animals can detect cancer in humans

So, can animals detect cancer in humans? It seems so.

Get this: In a 2011 study from Japan, a Labrador retriever was 98 percent correct in identifying colorectal cancer by sniffing stool samples and at least 95 percent as accurate as a colonoscopy when they smelled a person’s breath (1). That’s right, dogs could detect this cancer simply by smelling a person’s breath. As if this isn’t impressive enough, this particular dog was able to distinguish between polyps and malignancies, an early-stage detection that even a colonoscopy doesn’t pick up on.

In another study that same year, scientists trained dogs to sniff out lung cancer and interestingly, not only could they do it, but they could single out lung cancer when also sniffing breath samples of healthy patients and ones with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (1).

Personal stories of pets and their ability to detect cancer in owners

Ricky Hatfield can testify to the healing power of dogs to detect serious conditions. He explains how his dog gave him a head-butt right in the groin (ouch!), which was very atypical behavior for the retriever. Hatfield went to the hospital from resulting swelling in his groin, which led to the discovery that he had Stage 2 testicular cancer.

Think it’s coincidence? Just a dog clowning around and a super duper lucky guy? Maybe. But Hatfield’s doctors say this early detection likely saved his life. And the kicker? The dog’s odd behavior, like head-butting, started taking place about a month prior to Hatfield’s hospital visit which, um, coincides perfectly with the time in which doctors say is when Hatfield likely started becoming ill (2).

“The specific cancer scent indeed exists, but the chemical compounds are not clear,” explains Dr. Hideto Sonoda from Kyushu University in Japan. “Only the dog knows the true answer.” (3)

Well . . . apparently cats do too. When Wendy Humphrey’s cat Fidge kept jumping on her breast repeatedly for several weeks, she took it as a sign and visited her doctor. The finding? A malignant, pea-sized tumor that had it gone undetected, could have metastasized (4).

So next time your Fido or Fluffy seems persistent about head-butting your body or acting way out of sorts, why not take it as a reminder to check in on your health? They may know something that you, or even state-of-the-art technology, doesn’t yet.

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