In this study, a single dog was tested for her ability to detect cancer. The tasks were 1) to choose the breath sample that came from a person with cancer when it was randomly placed among four breath samples from people without cancer and 2) to choose the watery stool sample that came from a person with cancer when it was randomly placed among four watery stool samples from people without cancer.
The dog was correct in 37 out of 38 of the stool samples and in 33 out of 36 of the breath samples. The dog was not fooled by samples from people who smoke, or those who had benign colorectal polyps, inflammation or an infection.
Although this sort of detection is promising as a non-invasive means of detecting cancer, interestingly, the dog in this study is reported to lose her concentration in the hot summer months. This is a detail that needs to be attended to because obviously, the need for this sort of detection is not seasonal.
Karen B. London, PhD, is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer whose clinical work over the last 17 years has focused on the evaluation and treatment of serious behavioral problems in dogs, especially aggression. Karen has been writing the behavior column for The Bark since 2012 and wrote The Bark’s training column and various other articles for eight years before that. She is an adjunct professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Northern Arizona University, and teaches a tropical field biology course in Costa Rica. Karen writes an animal column, The London Zoo, which appear in The Arizona Daily Sun and is the author of five books on canine training and behavior. She is working on her next book, which she expects to be published in 2017.