Frequently Asked Questions

Dogs are amazing sniffers. They have 300 million scent receptors compared to humans’ 5 million and the part of dogs’ brains dedicated to smell is 40 times larger than humans. Experts estimate that this amounts to a 10,000 to 100,000 times greater sense of smell than humans. Humans have long relied on dogs for hunting, finding missing persons, bomb and drug detection and illnesses like diabetes and epilepsy. Leveraging similar training techniques, dogs can be trained to detect a scent associated with cancer with remarkable accuracy.

For over a decade, research groups have been studying the ability of canines to detect cancer in human blood, saliva, urine and breath.  These studies have produced excellent results with accuracy rates of 90%+.  We recently concluded a study (soon to be published) using dogs to detect cancer in canine saliva samples with similar results.  Here are some of the most recent studies into canine detection of human cancers:

2022 Study – Dogs Trained to Detect Osteosarcoma on Human Saliva

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-022-11013-1

2021 Study – Dogs Trained to Detect Lung Cancer on Human Breath and Urine

https://bmccancer.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12885-021-08651-5

2019 Study – Dogs Trained to Detect Lung Cancer on Human Blood Serum

https://www.degruyter.com/document/doi/10.7556/jaoa.2019.077/html?lang=de

2013 Study – Dogs Trained to Detect Ovarian Cancer on Human Blood

https://bmccancer.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1471-2407-13-396

2011 Study – Dogs Trained to Detect Prostate Cancer on Human Urine

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0302283810009449

Our dogs are trained on a “general cancer scent”. Our research has shown that many cancers share a common scent. While we are not sure of the comprehensive list, we have identified that our general cancer dogs can detect the scents associated with hemangiosarcoma, leukemia, osteosarcoma, mast cell tumor, thyroid carcinoma, melanoma, oral melanoma, lymphoma, mammary, primary lung tumor and squamous cell carcinoma cancers.

No, the dogs won’t smell your pet. You will be provided a collection kit that includes oral swabs for sample collection, a sample bag, instructions and a prepaid return envelope. You will gently insert a collection swab into your pet’s mouth and twirl the collection swab against inside of the left and right cheek pouch and under the tongue a minimum of 10 times for at least 30 seconds to ensure the swab is saturated with saliva. Swabs are then placed in the sample collection bag and returned to ScoutMD for processing.

Your pet should not have had food or water for at least 1 hour prior to collecting the saliva sample.

Saliva samples are the least invasive method of collecting a sample.

Swabs used to collect saliva samples are put in a test tube and placed in canisters in various positions in our screening room. Trainers escort dogs through the screening room and the dogs are trained to smell each sample. Dogs will sit at a sample if they smell an odor associated with a cancer scent.

In our testing, our dogs are performing at up to 90% accuracy in detecting a cancer scent in known positive samples when it is present.

Dogs that fall below our minimum performance criteria are removed from the testing program. All dogs periodically receive refresher training and testing to ensure they meet the minimum standards to continue to do the screening.

A minimum of three dogs will evaluate your pet’s sample.

No. A positive result means that a majority of the dogs that smelled your pet’s sample indicated that there was the presence of an odor consistent with cancer. This is not a positive finding for cancer. Any positive results should be shared with your pet’s veterinarian and you should consult with them on any appropriate next steps.

Any positive results should be shared with your pet’s veterinarian and you should consult with them on any appropriate next steps.

If less than a majority of the dogs that review your pet’s sample indicate positive for the presence of the cancer order, your pet’s result will be considered inconclusive.

In this instance, we recommend that you share the result with your pet’s veterinarian and use the initial screening results (e.g. one out of four dogs indicating positive on your pet’s sample) as a baseline and repeat the screening twice yearly. An increase in the number of dogs indicating positive in future screenings may indicate an occurrence of cancer.

Yes, although the results may come back as inconclusive if your pet is in remission from cancer. In this instance, we recommend that you use the initial screening results (e.g. one out of four dogs indicating positive on your pet’s sample) as a baseline and repeat the screening twice yearly. An increase in the number of dogs indicating positive in future screenings may indicate a recurrence of cancer.

If your veterinarian is not familiar with this screening method, please direct them to scoutmd.com for more information about the technology, research studies and our services. We recommend that you continue to stay vigilant with your pet’s preventative medicine exams and let their veterinarian know immediately if there are any suspicious changes in your pet’s health.

Consult your veterinarian. They may want to review your pet’s medical history, environmental/breed specific risks and any associated symptoms.

No. A negative result does not guarantee your pet is cancer free.