That Poor Cancer-Sniffing Dog

A recently-published study has shown that dogs can be trained to detect colon cancer. Apparently, their noses are sensitive enough to provide results that are up to 97% as accurate as a colonoscope. That’s pretty good, especially since it could mean not having a camera shoved several feet up your pooper.

The study itself proved both interesting and gross. Some things learned from a full reading of the study:

  • “During testing, experimenters monitored each trial and recorded their observations on a digital versatile disc.”

  • “Digital versatile disc” is just the spelled-out name for the common acronym “DVD”. It sounds scientific though, doesn’t it?

  • No matter how many times one reads the phrase “watery stool sample”, it never becomes less foul.

  • Even when this poor pooch gets off work and heads over to the dog park, she can never get away from the job. “*Sniff Sniff* I’ve got some bad news, Rusty…”.

  • Information from the double-blind test needed to be verified as quickly as possible, so the dog could be properly rewarded. Thus, the information was sent by the latest in 1980s technology, the fax machine.1

Unfortunately, it’s unlikely you’ll be greeted by a friendly black Lab at your next appointment with the proctologist. The study notes that dogs are unsuitable for widespread use, due to both the expense of training the dogs and day-to-day fluctuations in their effectiveness.

The biggest problem, however? The dogs may wind up suffering PTSD:

This poor, poor dog.
“Please don’t…don’t make me sniff that anymore.”


  1. “At the tests the dog…sat down in front of the station determined to contain a cancer scent, and then the handler noted the result on an answer card on which the test number was written. The card was transmitted to Fukuoka Dental College by fax. After submission the answer was explained to the handler and the dog as soon as possible because the correct behaviour was rewarded with a tennis ball.” ↩︎