A dog’s sense of smell is enormous. This fact is known to every dog owner, but the extent to which the instinct can take is astonishing. Dogs have particularly fine antennas when it comes to human health and can detect dangerous hypoglycaemia, warn of epilepsy attacks or even sniff out cancer.
Performance of the dog’s nose
The dog’s olfactory mucosa is 150 square centimeters in size. For comparison: that of humans only 5 square centimeters. We humans have about 5 million olfactory cells on it – in dogs there are around 200 to 300 million olfactory cells (depending on the breed of dog).
In order to smell illnesses, it is not only the strong sense of smell that is important, but also the extremely good perception. Dogs with the urge to bind themselves to a person, to accompany and protect them, notice the smallest changes in posture, minimal movements and perceive every mood of their mistress or master.
Epilepsy Warning Dogs & Seizure Warning Dogs
Thanks to the extraordinary sense of smell, dogs can identify the danger and warn the patient or their relatives 20 to 30 minutes before an epileptic attack. How the dog makes itself felt is taught to him in a special training. That can be whining, nudging or barking. The dogs can fetch other people or medication, or press an alarm button.
In contrast to guide dogs for the blind or deaf dogs, epilepsy dogs sometimes come to their owners as puppies when they are supposed to predict seizures. In this way it can be determined whether the dog has prediction skills in order to train them further and to teach the dog how to help.
Diabetic warning dogs
People suffering from diabetes can fall into a coma within 15 minutes. Affected people have to keep a constant eye on their blood sugar level and take their diet into account. If a diabetic is hypoglycemic, various chemical processes take place in his body. Diabetic warning dogs are able to recognize a low blood sugar level from the sweat or smell of humans. Similar to police drug detection dogs, they are trained to smell hypoglycemia or hypoglycemia and indicate hypoglycaemia through various learned behaviors such as nudging or getting the diabetes bag.
A young dog must be trained for 12 to 18 months until it can accompany patients as a diabetes dog. There are special training courses and trainers for this. However, a 2009 study shows that around three percent of all dogs are gifted without having been trained to do so.
Can dogs smell cancer?
Cancer can also be recognized by dogs: the animals smell on the breath or stool of those affected, and can thus identify colon cancer, for example. Japanese researchers performed a total of 74 tests on a Labrador. Each test consisted of five samples, one of which belonged to a cancer patient. The result: the hit rate for the breath tests was 95 percent, for the chair test it was 98 percent. Apparently there are chemical substances perceptible to the dog that are released by the cancer cells. In previous studies, there was evidence that four-legged friends can sniff out lung, breast and ovarian cancer. Dog breeds such as the German Shepherd, Labrador and Golden Retriever are, thanks to their “will to please”, generally well suited for training for these types of nose work and for training as assistance dogs.