If you’ve been reading Something Wagging This Way Comes for a while, you’ve seen I’m pretty interested in the good old doggy nose. Or in more precise terms, the Snifferus Amazingus (I always knew my high school Latin would come in handy one day).
A recent research study in Japan trained a Labrador Retriever to detect cancer in people by smelling. The dog, Marine, was able to detect 40 out of 300 people who actually had cancer with an accuracy rate as high as 97 percent when sniffing stool samples (see, sniffing poop is a valuable skill; stop being so impatient when your dogs practice it).
The research is part of an attempt by scientists to identify compounds in cancer by odor so they can develop less expensive diagnostic tools that don’t shed and play fetch.
NPR interviewed Dr. Gary Beauchamp of the Monell Chemical Senses Center who reiterated that he didn’t think dogs would be used formally for diagnosis. He didn’t explain why.
I suspect it’s because most people who seek out professional treatment feel more comfortable with MRI machines and x-rays–y’know, diagnostic tools that don’t drool. As someone who hasn’t seen a doctor in over twenty years except at an occasional cocktail party, I’d much rather visit a dog.