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Doberman Detects Breast Cancer

As a puppy, Troy detected cancer in his owner's breast. (Photo courtesy of Diane and Harry Papazian)

Diane Papazian was initially skeptical to add another dog to the family. They already owned a Fox Terrier and she discovered that she had allergies. But when the breeder called to ask her and her husband Harry to take the tiny 4-month-old Doberman Pinscher home a little early, they said yes. The Staten Island family settled in with their new family member Troy.

One evening, a few years ago, while he was still a puppy, Troy was snuggling in bed with the Papazians. "One night, he was curled up between us in bed. He kept nuzzling up against my left side." Troy's persistent nuzzling triggered an allergic reaction. "I (scratched) myself, and then I popped up in bed and said, 'Holy cow! What's this?'" It was then that she felt a lump in her left breast that was already three centimeters in diameter.

Diane immediately contacted her doctor who discovered that the lump was malignant and began treatment for the aggressive form of breast cancer she was suffering from. She had a double mastectomy and began chemotherapy.

Now cancer-free and feeling healthy, she was so glad that they decided to take the little dog early. "If the dog had come a month later or if we hadn't taken him, I don't know what would have happened."

Troy's incredible nose is an example of how dogs are able to detect diseases in humans. Because of their extraordinary sense of smell, they are able to detect subtle chemical changes in the breath, urine, and blood that can indicate disease. They can even sniff out compounds in the body that may indicate cancerous cells.

According to Sheila O'Brien of the Guide Dog Foundation, they are working with canine disease detection with successful results. "Dogs can with 98% to 99% accuracy...tell you whether volatile, organic compounds are present in blood or breath samples."

Troy is now an intense 86-pound award winning dog. He competed in the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show and is currently the ninth-ranked Doberman in the country and the number one Doberman in the state of New York. Troy is also working on his post-show career by training to be a therapy dog. Diane says that people get scared of Dobermans, but that he's got a sweet personality.

"Who knows what our lives would have been like if we didn't have him," Harry explains. "It could have been disastrous. We are just very thankful for having him in our lives."