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What Dog Breeds Can Smell Cancer? (With Pictures)

Written by: Rachael Gerkensmeyer

Last Updated on April 10, 2024 by Dogster Team

dog sniffing owner's hands

What Dog Breeds Can Smell Cancer? (With Pictures)


Dr. Lorna Whittemore  Photo


Dr. Lorna Whittemore

BVMS, MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

Did you know that some dogs can smell cancer? Amazing right! Some dogs can smell certain types of cancers because their sense of smell is immensely better than ours. It has been proven that dogs can detect the scent of cancer even before it has spread and metastasized.

But what breed of dog can smell cancer? It turns out that more than one breed can do this important job for humanity. Here are 10 of the most common dog breeds that may be able to detect cancer and how they do it.

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The 10 Types of Dog Breeds That May Smell Cancer

There are several types of dog breeds that seem to have the ability to smell cancer, even in people whom they have never met before. Here are 10 dog breeds that have shown tremendous achievement when it comes to scenting work.

1. Bloodhound

bloodhound dog lying on the ground
Image Credit: Degtyaryov Andrey, Shutterstock

This shouldn’t be surprising because this dog was bred to hunt by scent, and they have been shown to accurately detect evidence such as blood traces and DNA.

2. Dachshund

shiny black dachshund
Image Credit: NORRIE3699, Shutterstock

These are hunters by intuition, and they have a sharp sense of smell that enables them to detect scents from cancer.

3. Basset Hound

Female Basset Hound
Image Credit: Ewa Studio, Shutterstock

This is a natural hunting breed that relies on their sense of smell to track down their prey. They can use the same ability to track down cancer cells in the human body.

4. English Foxhound

English foxhound
Image credit: Mary Swift, Shutterstock

This fox-hunting dog breed is notorious for their impressive sense of smell that seems to surpass that of other domesticated dog breeds.

5. German Shepherd

German Shepherd
Image Credit: Osetrik, Shutterstock

As dogs that serve in the military, German Shepherds are well-versed when it comes to tracking scents. Once trained to detect a scent, they are rarely wrong.

6. Beagle

beagle dog lying on the sofa
Image Credit: Savelie Antipov, Unsplash

With a tendency to let their noses lead their lives, Beagles are utilized for services such as detecting drugs and agriculture violations in airports. Nowadays, they’ve shown promise in the cancer-detecting field.

7. Labrador Retriever

Golden Labrador Retriever
Image Credit: Glass_Burin P, Shutterstock

These dogs have long been recognized as good sniffers. That’s why they are popular in the search-and-rescue service industry. They can smell cancer too, which makes them even more valuable.

8. Collies

female border collie lying on grass
Image Credit: Elayne Massaini, Shutterstock

With their keen minds and great stamina, collie breeds also have an excellent sense of smell. They also happen to be fond of humans, so it makes sense to put them to work as cancer-sniffing dogs.

9. Golden Retriever

A happy Golden Retriever adult male dog relaxing in a park
Image Credit: Neelsky, Shutterstock

Like the Labrador Retriever, this breed relies heavily on their sense of smell to get through life and to serve their human companions.

10. Belgian Malinois

belgian malinois standing outdoor
Image Credit: BIGANDT.COM, Shutterstock

Widely revered as an exceptional military working dog, the Belgian Malinois has been used to sniff out explosives, blood, DNA, and other scents. Now, they’ve been trained to sniff out cancer.

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Trained Cancer Sniffing Dogs

Dogs that are specifically trained to sniff out cancer as biodetection dogs need to have more than just a good nose.  They need to be readily trainable, motivated, and easy to work with. This is why it is more common to see springer spaniels, Labrador retrievers, German shepherds, and Belgian Malinois being trained for this purpose.  There are also plenty of crossbreed dogs that have been trained as wonderful medical detection and biodetection dogs. It takes more than a great nose to be a cancer sniffing hero.

golden labrador dog sniffing person hands in snowy winter park
Image Credit Bogdan Sonjachnyj, Shutterstock

How Dogs Can Detect Cancer

Cancer cells, or tumors, produce volatile organic compounds that differ from those normally found in a healthy living body. When these compounds are produced, they have a unique scent that can be distinguished from healthy people. However, these scents can be hard to detect — unless you have 300 million olfactory receptors, like some dog breeds do.

Due to this powerful scent-detection system, some dog breeds can smell cancer cells and tumors and even alert their human companions of their findings. One example is Sierra, a Siberian Husky that managed to detect their owner’s ovarian cancer before a doctor diagnosed the owner with a cyst.

Thanks to Sierra, her owner wasn’t convinced of the diagnosis, so she saw a gynecologist who determined it was stage 3 ovarian cancer. If it were not for Sierra, the owner may not have gotten a diagnosis until it was too late. This is just one example of many that lend credibility to the idea that dogs can smell cancer.

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The fact that dogs can smell cancer is amazing and is a field of ongoing research. What’s even more impressive is that they can find ways to communicate their findings with their human companions. When a dog pays close attention to a part of your body and doesn’t seem to let the issue go, it might be time to schedule a checkup with your doctor, just in case.

Featured Image Credit: Prostock-studio, Shutterstock

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