A Dog’s Sense of Smell
The ability of a dog to discriminate scent has long been utilized by their human to assist them in locating game, people and objects. The science associated with scent has been studied and dogs are well known to have the ability to smell scents many times better than humans. Some breeds have up to 220 million olfactory receptors, versus 5 million in humans. They are able to identify and differentiate scents that are blended with many other contaminants with significant reliability. The following article gives brief insight into the dog’s sense of smell:
“The Dog’s Sense of Smell” By Julio E. Correa
Alabama A&M and AuburnUniversities
Copyright 2011 by Alabama Cooperative Extension System
Dogs Sense of Smell
While this phenomenal sense of smell is an inherent ability of dogs and most can be trained to identify a specific scent; that single ability does not result in a reliable and consistent working dog. Additional characteristics needed are a dog that is motivated to work with their handler and respond to the training in a fashion that is consistent with the objectives of the trainer. The process of training is on-going and in order to assure its continuity, it needs to be regularly reinforced and re-proven.
Training Scents are Critical
Another critical element is the identification of the scent to be targeted. Obtaining a scent that can be used to train a dog is an integral part of the training process. When Mark Ruefenacht first considered the hypothesis that a dog could be trained to identify the scent emitted by a diabetic as the blood sugar changed, he needed to determine how to obtain the proper scent for training a dog and then determine if the scent was common between insulin-dependent diabetics. His background in forensics, and specifically blood alcohol measurement, coupled with his own personal understanding of diabetes, caused him to believe that the inherent chemical changes would provide a unique scent with which to work.
He studied many scent training protocols, from both the forensic and medical arenas. They provided insight into the complexity of both obtaining and testing scents as well as training a dog to react to the scent, once it was identified. The article provided below is one that provided numerous insights into the scent collection process, scent durability, the ability of dogs to discriminate among many different scents as well as training methods needed to assure the reliability of the dog’s scent discrimination skills:
“Specialized use of Human Scent in Criminal Investigations” By Rex A. Stockham Explosives Unit, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Dennis L. Slavin, Bloodhound Handler, South Pasadena Police Dept. William Kift, Bloodhound Handler, Long Beach Police Dept.
Forensic Science Communications, Research and Technology, July 2004-Vol. 6-Number 3
Human Scent in Criminal Investigations FBI
Dogs proven to accurately identify Hypoglycemia
The following article, published in July 2015, provides strong evidence as to the ability of trained dogs to accurately identify the scent of Hypoglycemia on a reliable and consistent basis. The research was performed in Indiana by individual researchers associated with Eli Lilly Corp. and Medical Mutts. The article was published as original research for open access.
Dogs can Be Successfully Trained to Alert to Hypoglycemia Samples from Patients with Type I Diabetes, Dana S. Hardin, Wesley Anderson, Jennifer Cattet See www.diabetestherapy-open.com
Scents of different Medical Conditions
Many diseases emit unique scents that are detectible by the human nose and were recognized as a means of diagnosis in the early years of medicine.
Using scent as a means of diagnosing a medical condition is not new or unique. Many diseases emit unique scents that are detectible by the human nose and were recognized as a means of diagnosis in the early years of medicine. Kidney disease, liver disease, pneumonia, and diabetes all present scents that have helped in diagnosis since ancient times. Research is ongoing to develop an electronic nose that can replicate the sensitivity of the canine nose.
“The scent of disease: volatile organic compounds of the human body related to disease and disorder” By Mika Shirasu and Kazushige Touhara, Department of Applied Biological Chemistry, The University of Tokyo, The Journal of Biochemistry, 2011;150(3): 257-266 The Scent of Disease
The Pine Street Foundation is a leader in researching the ability of dogs to diagnose cancers. The following report gives insight into the processes developed by the Pine Street Foundation to develop a consistent and reliable means of identifying scent related to cancer victims. Their work reflects the serious nature of their effort and attention to detail in their training protocols. The effort requires understanding of both the dog’s capabilities as well as the disease that is being evaluated.
“Diagnostic Accuracy of Canine Scent Detection of Early- and Late-Stage Lung and Breast Cancers” By Michael McCulloch, Tadeusz Jezierski, Michael Broffman, Alan Hubbard, Kirk Turner and Teresa Janecki
INTEGRATIVE CANCER THERAPIES 5(1); 2006 pp. 1-10
Canine Cancer Scent Detection
The Critical Nature of this Work
Using dogs to assist in the management of a chronic medical condition is a serious undertaking. The training should only be undertaken by an experienced trainer who is willing to spend the time and effort to understand the disease as well as the client’s needs and expectations. The objective is to provide a dog to our clients that has proven his or her abilities as well as to provide the client with the skills necessary to sustain the dog’s consistent and reliable altering capabilities over the dog’s working life.