This is Grace from near Maryborough. She might be doing your next Lab Test one day!

In the not-so-distant future, we may be able to diagnose human cancers with a “lab test”……a sniffing Labrador, that is! Researchers have been investigating the employment of dogs to sniff out human cancers as well as for other, non-medical uses, with promising results.


It all began in the 1980’s, when a woman sought an examination for a skin lesion that her dog had been constantly sniffing. Excision and histopathological examination of the lesion revealed it to be a malignant melanoma (Pirrone). Since then, limited studies have been conducted into detection by dogs of human cancers such as melanoma, lung cancer, breast cancer, urologic cancers and colorectal cancer. While results have been mixed, many studies show that doggy doctors have a high sensitivity and specificity in cancer detection. Excitingly, canine noses may have the ability to detect cancers at a very early stage, prior to detection by other forms of non-invasive testing.


In Finland and Sweden, ‘mould dogs’ have been studied for their ability to detect the presence of microbial decay of wood. Mould presents a public health risk in the form of respiratory and other illnesses, but people can live inmouldy buildings for long periods of time- long enough for them to become sick- without being aware of the presence of the mould.
Dogs can detect mastitis (infected milk) in cows, preventing it from getting into the food chain or being wasted.
These are still being investigated- a work in progress.

Look out for future “lab tests” your doctor may prescribe!