Most medical conditions detected by dogs (organisation)
Medical Detection Dogs
28 total number
United Kingdom (Milton Keynes)

Formally established as a charity in 2008, Medical Detection Dogs (UK), based in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, UK, has trained dogs to use their powerful sense of smell to sniff out 28 different types of disease/disorder or a change in a disease/disorder status that could lead to a health emergency. As of February 2022, these include: Addison’s disease (adrenal insufficiency), anaphylaxis, asthma, blood glucose (e.g., diabetes), congenital central hypoventilation syndrome (CCHS), complicated migraines, cortisol, drop attacks, epilepsy, heart conditions, hemiplaegic migraines, idiopathic pancreatitis, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), narcolepsy, non-epileptic attack disorder (NEAD), nut allergy, postural tachycardia syndrome (POTS), syncopy, bladder cancer, prostate cancer, colo-rectal cancer, breast cancer, malaria, Parkinson’s, COVID-19, Pseudomonas bacteria, E. coli bacteria and canine cancer.

The ability for dogs to detect certain diseases or conditions using their incredible sense of smell – between 10,000 and 100,000 times more acute than a human’s – that might otherwise go unnoticed has been gaining traction for around the last 30 years. Dogs have around 300 million olfactory receptors vs about 6 million in humans.

The first documented case of a dog’s sense of smell leading to a diagnosis of cancer appeared in the medical journal The Lancet on 1 April 1989, when trainee dermatologist Hywel Williams and Andres Pembroke published a letter detailing the case of a dog whose continual interest in a mole on his owner's leg led her to seek medical advice; it transpired to be a malignant melanoma.

Medical detection dogs are able to perform two critical roles in this field. In a controlled bio-detection setting, they can be used to indicate the presence of a disease in samples such as urine, sweat or breath. While in a home setting, medical alert assistance dogs can let their owners know of an impending episode or change in condition by noticing fluctuations in their body’s particular “smell print”, enabling the owner to act (e.g., take medication or seek assistance) before it develops into an emergency.