Most dogs owners will tell you their pets have an uncanny ability to sense when something is amiss. Dogs are believed to possess a "sixth sense" in detecting danger or an imminent event. Now, researchers at the Curie Institute in Paris, France, have found dogs, specifically German Shepherds, have the ability to sniff out breast cancer in women with 100 percent accuracy.

"There is technology that works very well, but sometimes simpler things, more obvious things, can also help," said Amaury Martin of the Curie Institute. He pointed to many anecdotal stories of dogs knowing when an owner has cancer, according to a statement on Medical Xpress.

Martin and his colleagues, with the help of canine specialist Jacky Experton, were able to train German Shepherds Thor and Nykios to accurately identify breast cancer within six months of training. "Game-playing" and reward-based training methods were used to help these dogs differentiate cancerous bandages from patients to non-cancerous ones. The researchers used different bandages than the ones the dogs were trained on.

A total of two rounds were done to determine the efficacy of this diagnostic tool. A new set of 31 bandages were placed in cones where the canines would stick their noses into. There were four boxes per test — one cancerous and three non-cancerous; the "sniff test" was repeated once with each sample, for a total of 32 individual responses from all the dogs.

The findings revealed the dogs had a 90 percent success rate in the first round, detecting 28 out of the 31 cancerous bandages. Meanwhile, this was followed by a 100 percent accuracy rate in the second. The researchers see this as a simple, non-invasive method that can revolutionize cancer detection in less developed parts of the world.

For example, this inventive technique may benefit countries with limited access to mammograms. It could also help people receive life-saving treatment by detecting it on time.

"In these countries, there are oncologists, there are surgeons, but in rural areas often there is limited access to diagnostics," said Isabelle Fromantin, who leads the project known as “Kdog.”

Martin, Fromantin, and their colleagues have completed the proof-of-concept phase of their project Kdog. They hope to host a clinical trial with more patients and another two dogs. They emphasize there is little danger to using these trained dogs to detect cancer in people outside the lab.

"These tests happen within a very specific work environment," said Experton. "In a different context, these dogs are unlikely to simply pounce on random people in the street."

It seems like you can teach a dog new tricks.

Dogs are intelligent animals that have proven they can be our best medical assistants. They can alert owners to medical emergencies due to their refined sense of hearing and smell. Below are three other medical conditions canines can detect in humans.

Migraines

Migraine sufferers are all too familiar with the sudden onset of a splitting headache. The ability to detect an impending migraine can make the difference between managing the pain or surrendering to hours of endless throbbing. In a 2013 study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, researchers recruited migraine sufferers who owned dogs to complete a brief online questionnaire about the extent their dogs showed migraine-altering behaviors. More than half of the participants reported changes in the behavior of their dogs during or leading to migraines. About 60 percent claimed their dog had warned them about the onset of a headache, usually an hour or two in advance.

Low Blood Sugar

Diabetics may benefit from owning a dog to warn them when their blood sugar level is dropping or spiking. A 2016 study in Diabetes Care found dogs can detect isoprene, a common chemical found in our breathing, which tends to rise during a blood sugar drop. The researchers believe the dogs are particularly sensitive to it, and can tell when their breath has higher than usual levels of it. People however, cannot detect the chemical.

UTI Infections

Dogs urinate to mark their territory, and let other dogs know where they stand. A dog's ability to smell pee can provide owners with several health benefits. In a 2016 study in the Open Forum Infectious Diseases, researchers trained five Labrador and golden retriever dogs to identify infected urine, and let them sniff out several female samples for eight weeks. The findings revealed they were able to detect samples contained with four different bacteria with a minimum of 90 percent accuracy.

Source: “Dogs detect breast cancer from bandage: researchers.” AFP. 2017.