Hero Labrador’s incredible gift when she sniffed out owner’s breast cancer early
Daisy the Labrador nudged at her owner’s breast where cancer was later found and Dr Claire Guest could not be more grateful to her dog
An incredible dog who saved her owner’s life by sniffing out her breast cancer has become the inspiration for ground-breaking research into the use of dogs to detect life-threatening human diseases.
Dr Claire Guest, from Buckingham, Buckinghamshire, co-founded the charity Medical Detection Dogs in 2008.
The charity, based in Milton Keynes, trains dogs to use their remarkable sense of smell to sniff out illnesses in humans.
Claire was training her own puppy, Daisy, to be a detection dog the following year in 2009, when the Labrador started acting strangely around her owner.
“She kept on just staring at me and then nudging at my breast,” Claire recalls.
“I sort of felt the area where she’d been nudging me, and I thought I could feel a bit of a lump.”
When Claire got the lump checked out by doctors, it turned out to be a cyst – but further tests revealed that behind the cyst was a deep-seated form of breast cancer.
“What was so remarkable was that my consultant and surgeon said that had my attention not been drawn to this area, my prognosis would have been very, very different,” Claire said.
“I owe my life to Daisy for drawing my attention to this early cancer.”
Dogs are able to detect illnesses such as cancer in humans because of their distinct smells.
“Every disease and condition seems to have a unique odour that a dog can be trained to detect,” Claire explained..
While these scents can’t be picked up by human noses, dogs have a sense of smell that far surpasses our abilities.
“If a human can detect a teaspoon of sugar in a cup of tea,” Claire says, “a dog could detect that same teaspoon of sugar in the volume of water held in two Olympic-sized swimming pools.
So we’re talking about a quite phenomenal ability, and this is something that we now harness to detect human disease.”
Trials have shown that dogs have an impressive ability to detect many human illnesses, including different forms of cancer, malaria, and neurological diseases like Parkinson’s, often before the person develops any symptoms.
The charity also trains medical alert assistance dogs, who can warn their owners to take preventative action for illnesses like diabetes and allergies.
A select group of dogs are even going through training to sniff out Covid-19, and studies so far have suggested that they are more accurate than a lateral flow test.
Daisy went on to become a talented medical detection dog for the charity, and was even the first ever dog to successfully sniff out prostate cancer.
Claire’s beloved pet sadly passed away a few years ago, but the Labrador’s incredible legacy lives on.
Staff wear daisy badges to work every day as a tribute to the dog who was the inspiration behind their important work.
“Not a day goes by when I don’t miss Daisy and miss her by my side,” Claire says.
“But with Daisy alongside me in spirit and memory, the charity keeps going to ensure that whatever we can do to save lives with the wonderful help of our dogs, we will do.”