Butt Sniffing and Bladder Cancer
Lassie, you’ve come a long way, baby. Although not too long ago the only thing a dog could do was rescue little Timmy from the well, times have changed. It seems that their noses are good for more than a friendly anal greeting and can be trained to detect bladder cancer from a simple urine sample. A new study in the British Medical Journal confirms that the canine’s chances of being correct are about 41%. Indeed, like the piss prophets of Olde England, there is nothing they can’t discern from a simple plate of pee.
You might be wondering what this has to do with anything. Sure it’s cool that you can pee in a dish and run to your oncologist if it scares your Chihuahua, but one wonders why such a prestigious journal would publish such findings. Initially, it’s obvious that these dogs weren’t just guessing. In order for this to occur, there must have been some kind of volatile (i.e. smell-able) organic compound in the urine that indicated the presence of cancer. In oncology, any compound that marks the presence of a tumor is known as (brace yourself) a tumor marker. Thus it is clear that the dogs had knowledge of some previously unknown volatile tumor marker and this in itself is exciting news. Unfortunately, the study was content to hypothesize the existence of such a marker, but offered no indication of it’s proposed identity.
Other problems with the study included the lack of breed normalization and questionable training practices, however for further discussion of the research, I suggest you reference this page where the BMJ allows people to comment on the study. It is amazing to me the different ideas that people come up with in the world of medical research. Now if only we could train a shih tzu to diagnose colon cancer, that would really be a trick.