The next time you get pulled over, maybe even the next time you visit the doctor for a routine checkup, you may find a furry new staffer calling the shots.
Animal researchers have long known that dogs’ heightened senses give investigators an advantage when tracking down evidence of a crime. Now, there’s reason to believe they can help detect signs of cancer, as well.
According to Homeoanimal, in a study conducted with two Portuguese Water dogs, three Labradors, and 169 human volunteers–86 with cancer–every one of the dogs was able to detect the “smell of cancer” just from the volunteers’ breath.
In East Texas, German Shepherds Lilly and Ruger are trained to sniff out thyroid conditions and blood clots.
“[Lilly] can sniff out cancer three different cancers with an 83 percent accuracy,” K-9 trainer Monty Hutson told East Texas Matters. “There’s about three million dollars in dogs right here.”
There’s the rub. It can be an expensive to train dogs to detect cancer. Wolves, on the other hand, are even better suited to the job, and may take less coaching than their domesticated counterparts.
Joining Lilly and Ruger, an Arctic Wolf named Sheba is helping keep the peace in East Texas, too. And she’s bringing eons of evolutionary advantage with her. While her K-9 partners can track scents within a 1,000-meter radius, Sheba’s nose detects scents as far as 5 miles away.
“We’re bringing them into the military for the first time since George Washington used them in the Revolutionary War,” Hutson said. “We’re hoping Sheba can do ten times what Lilly can based on how a wolf responds. If her sense is that strong, she should be able to pick up on things that we are never even going to understand.”
A wolf’s heightened olfactory abilities apply to cancer cell detection, as well. They can tell when other members of a pack are sick or wounded, and may some day help diagnose human conditions like PTSD.
“If she identifies something like a blood clot, she’ll go up one leg and down the other until she finds where it’s at.. and then she’ll paw or she’ll nudge them,” Hutson said of Sheba.
Wolves are already being employed by law enforcement in Russia, where they demonstrate a much more focused approach to the job than domesticated dogs. According to Pravda.ru, “dogs chaotically run about the training hall and spend much time to study the surrounding environment. Wolfdogs encircle the hall one time, determine check points and immediately trace hiding criminals, drugs or explosives.”
They’re good at what they do, even excited about it.
“When they enter the training hall their teeth chatter as they are impatient to do exercises,” said Animal trainer Olga Galperina.
Wolves may soon be employed in U.S. law enforcement and medical environments more than ever before. For now, they’ve found a number of starring roles in popular entertainment. Sheba’s father, for instance, was a convincing direwolf as Ghost in the HBO series “Game of Thrones.”
“If we can start developing these wolves to be more beneficial to society and not the evil animal that you always see, a scary animal this and that.. I think these wolves can really change us as humans and the way that we think about medicines,” Hutson said.
Learn more about dogs sniffing out cancer in the video below.
Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.
Help Rescue Animals
Provide food and vital supplies to shelter pets at The Animal Rescue Site for free! →