Close up of hound dog sniffing.

The canine species is pretty well known for its excellent sniffer. From drug detecting police dogs, to search and rescue dogs, to your family friend who always seems to know when dinner is ready, the evidence is clear. But what can a dog smell exactly, and why is their sense of smell so sensitive? 

All About the Nose

Dogs experience much of their world through their noses. From learning about another pack mate with a classic butt-sniff to finding their way home by following a scent trail, dogs depend a lot on their sense of smell.

A dog’s nose has between 125 to 300 million scent glands to the 5 million in human noses. This makes their sense of smell up to 100,000 times more sensitive than our own! To add to the disparity, the part of the dog’s brain that analyzes scent is proportionally about 40 times larger than ours.

Dogs also have an additional organ within their nose called the vomeronasal organ. This organ is very sensitive to the scent of pheromones that we are unable to detect.

Dogs can pick up very small amounts of scent particles in a very vast area. You might also be wondering how far a dog can smell. Depending on environmental conditions, dogs can also pick up smells from over 12 miles away. 

What Can a Dog Smell

So a dog’s olfactory organ is pretty on point, but what can a dog smell? Can dogs smell cancer? 

There have long been stories about pets seeming to detect when people are sick, but  in more recent research we have actually started to put some science behind the rumors. In 2014, Dr. Gianluigi Taverna actually was able to publish a study in which two German shepherd dogs were trained and able to detect prostate cancer by smelling human urine samples with 98% accuracy

There is also evidence that dogs can use their sense of smell to detect conditions including:

  • Diabetes
  • Oncoming seizures
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Various cancers including lung, bladder, ovarian, melanoma, and breast

Scientists are even starting to try to determine what dogs are smelling to tip them off to trouble so that we can one day detect odors that indicate these types of conditions in a laboratory setting. 

Dupont Veterinary Clinic holds nothing but admiration for the noses of some of our favorite patients. That’s why we make it our job to take good care of your pets. Contact us so that we can get started helping your four legged, scent sniffing, amazing family members.