Fielding D. O’Niell, DVM, MS
Dog's have long been known for their ability to track a scent trail. They also have been quite adept at sniffing out drugs and explosives. Humans have 5 million olfactory (scent) receptors while dogs have 220 million.
Reserachers in Paris have trained a small group of dogs to detect prostate cancer by sniffing a patient's urine. Initial studies show these dogs to be correct 95 percent of the time. This is much more accurate than prostate palpation and PSA tests combined.
Swedish reserachers have a team of dogs that can detect ovarian cancer in the plasma and tissue samples of patients. These dogs have an accuracy rate of almost 100 percent.
The key to cancer survival is early diagnosis. In both these cases, dogs are able to alert doctors far earlier than traditional medical methods. Scientists are now hard at work to isolate the volatile organic compounds being detected by these dogs in order to develop a sophisticated analytic test for something dogs are simply able to smell.
This gives new meaning to the term, "lab test", but I still like the idea of a laboratory full of Labradores.