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Making the case that dogs are really dermatologists’ best friend, a rescue dog reportedly detected her owner’s skin cancer —and potentially saved her life.
Lauren Gauthier recently developed a small red lump on her nose but dismissed it as nothing to worry about, reports InsideEdition.com . But her recently adopted rescue hound Victoria wouldn’t let it go, constantly sniffing the spot.
“She started smelling a specific area of my nose to the extent that she would actually touch her nose to mine where the cancer is and kind of lean back and look at me and smell it again and look at me,” Gauthier told InsideEdition.com . “It was very odd and she kept doing it repeatedly, and I thought that that was a little bit unusual for her to do.”
Victoria’s persistence finally started to make Gauthier wonder if something might be wrong, so she went to a dermatologist to have the lump checked out.
It turns out, the lump was skin cancer. A biopsy showed Gauthier had developed a basal cell carcinoma—4 million cases of which are diagnosed every year, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation —likely from her love of tanning beds as a teen.
“The idea that dogs can sniff out and detect different types of cancers is a poorly understood but well-documented phenomenon,” Joshua Zeichner , director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, tells Allure . “There are several cases of dogs actually licking or paying attention to specific lesions on their owners’ skin.”
While doctors aren’t totally sure what the dogs are detecting, “the current idea is that these cancers give off volatile organic compounds that are uniquely detected by the keen olfactory senses of dogs,” explains Zeichner. Victoria is a Treeing Walker Coonhound, a breed specifically lauded for its keen sense of smell, which may explain her ability to zero in on Gauthier’s basal cell carcinoma.
According to a case report published in British Medical Journal Case Reports in 2013, dogs have even been known to detect bladder, breast, colorectal, lung, ovarian and prostate cancers in addition to skin cancer, thanks to their superior sense of smell. In their report, the authors concluded that there may even be evidence to support the introduction of “sniffer dogs” in dermatologists’ offices or the development of an “electronic nose” that can pick up the specific chemicals being released by skin cancers.
The bottom line? If your pup seems fixated on a freckle, it might be worth having a doctor take a look.
This article originally appeared on Allure.com In this story: Cancer, New York Now Playing: #GOALDIGGER
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