• 08.24.10

Dogs and Mice Sniff Feces to Prevent International Avian Flu Epidemic

From bombs to landmines to cancer to international bird flu scares, animals come to the rescue.

Dogs and Mice Sniff Feces to Prevent International Avian Flu Epidemic

Dogs, cats, and rodents have been known to be able to detect cancer and other illnesses, bombs, and land mines, but today researchers at the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society announced plans to use dogs and mice to prevent epidemics, such as the avian flu epidemic. Discovery News reports, “the excrement of infected animals smells different than the feces of healthy individuals,” and thus poop is the key to the renewed focus on using animals to detect disease and prevent international epidemics.


But why has it taken so long to focus on feces as a way to diagnose disease? After all, breath was the previous diagnostic tool of choice and, in a sense, what comes out the other end is just one side of the same coin, right?

According to Discovery News, in previous studies where dogs were used to smell cancer via human breath, “dogs sniffed out the cancers with 88 to 97 percent accuracy,” which hopefully means that using feces might work just as well.

Helium reports, “The Cancer diagnosis ability of dogs first appeared to be studied in 1989, and in early 2000 to 2001. It was then explored that dogs could detect bladder cancers, and melanomas as well, as lung and breast cancers.”

Some say dogs detect disease by picking up “subconscious cues from nearby humans,” and others say animals are “sensing and smelling the organs shutting down.” Let’s just hope their feces-sniffing abilities are just as good.

[Image via Co.Design‘s Cliff Kuang and his dog, Snow]

About the author

Jenara is an overseas reporter for Fast Company and a freelance writer/producer in Asia, regularly on CNNGo, and a graduate of Harvard and UC Berkeley.