Can Dogs Detect Health Problems in People?

Can dogs detect health problems in people?
LWA/Dann Tardif/Blend Images/Corbis | Darwin Wiggett/First Light/Corbis | Markus Altmann/Corbis

Imagine that instead of giving a urine sample or getting blood drawn when you need a diagnostic health test, you consult with a dog instead. It's a funny concept, but your pooch may have more in common with your doctor than you previously thought. We've long known that dogs have stronger senses than we do, with their sense of smell getting the most attention. That sense of smell is about 1 million times greater than ours, which is why they've been used in tracking and hunting since they became our companion animals. Today, dogs help us find everything from bombs to drugs, and it's simply amazing what they can do. In addition to smell, many dogs also have a strong "sixth sense"; they just notice things that we don't.

Doubtless, none of this comes as a surprise to you, especially if you have a dog. But did you know that your dog's keen senses could actually save your life? Sure, canines are known to alert people about fires or protect them from intruders, but in this case, we're talking about an internal "intruder," like cancer. If you think this sounds crazy, you're not alone; cancer specialist Dr. Leonard Lichtenfeld, who wrote about the phenomenon for the American Cancer Society's blog in 2010, admitted to laughing when he first read about a study in which dogs supposedly sniffed out cancer.

Lichtenfeld stopped laughing when more studies appeared, and you should take it seriously, too. Read on to find out why cancer-sniffing dogs are no laughing matter and learn about the other ways that dogs can detect human health problems.

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