10 Surprising Things Dogs Smell That Humans Can’t


What things can dogs smell that humans can’t? Those super snoopers pick up just about every scent there could possibly be as canine noses are built for superior sniffing. Especially when compared to human olfactory senses. We’re pretty much nose blind next to our dogs. According to the American Kennel Club, “Depending on the breed, dogs have up 100 million or more scent receptors in their noses. And those terrific trackers we know as Bloodhounds have 300 million!”

That means a lot of odors and scents we can’t detect are wafting into dog snoots! Especially when you compare 100 – 300 million canine scent receptors to the only 5 – 6 million in the human nose. Think about this, if something smells pungent to you, imagine how strong of an odor it’s leaving in your dog’s nose.

And with that many scent receptors, it’s no wonder dogs sniff everything! The world is a bouquet of fragrances and stenches, each and every one of them telling a dog everything they need to know about their surroundings. But just what things can a dog smell that people can’t?

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10 Surprising Things Dogs Smell That Humans Can’t

#1 – People

You may wonder if your dog knows your smell and the answer is yes. Those fine-tuned sniffers can pick you out of a crowd, no problem. And this ability in dogs to smell people has made canines an important tool in locating missing persons.

PetNPat’s Dan Morris told MSN, “Trained search and rescue dogs can follow a scent from footstep to footstep, and can even catch scents in the air. This is invaluable to us in the task of locating those who are lost because we simply have nowhere near the same capabilities.”

#2 – Pregnancy

Our dogs know our scents, but when hormones start shifting in our bodies, we take on a bit of a different smell. Canines can smell these hormone changes too, especially in pregnant women. Though science has not yet found definitive proof, dog parents will tell you, dogs sense pregnancy. They know when things are changing up in the pack!

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10 Surprising Things Dogs Smell That Humans Can’t

#3 – Emotions

Here’s a surprise…emotions have a smell and there definitely something dogs can smell that humans can’t. So, how do dogs smell our feelings? It comes back to hormones.

“When we have changes in our emotions, our hormones change as well (think of stress hormones like cortisol or adrenaline, or happy hormones like oxytocin),” explains Jen Jones, a professional dog trainer and behavior specialist with Your Dog Advisor. “These hormones are detectable by dogs in our breath and in our sweat.”

#4 – Cancer

You’ve probably heard that dogs smell cancer before and wondered if it’s true. Indeed, it has proven to be a fact; dogs can smell cancer. A 2019 study by BioScentDx found dogs could detect cancer in blood samples with an accuracy rate of 97%.

As early detection is often the best hope in dealing with cancer, Heather Junqueira, lead researcher on the study, said, “A highly sensitive test for detecting cancer could potentially save thousands of lives and change the way the disease is treated.” Perhaps our dogs hold the answer to creating a much needed early-detection test.

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10 Surprising Things Dogs Smell That Humans Can’t

#5 – Diabetes

Like cancer, dogs can smell diabetes as blood glucose levels can affect the way our breath smells. Thanks to dogs that have been trained to detect dropping blood sugar levels on the breath, people with severe diabetic conditions are finding help in avoiding major blood sugar emergencies.

Can Do Canines helps match people with assistance dogs, including those in need of a Diabetes Assistance Dog. The group explains the dogs are “trained to ‘alert’ the person with diabetes, usually by touching them in a significant way such as pawing or nudging them.”

#6 – Natural Disasters

Tales of dogs saving people from disasters like tornadoes and earthquakes have long been told. Is this heroic legacy due to the thought dogs can smell natural disasters? With their highly evolved olfactory senses, it would fit logic to assume dogs have the ability to sense changes in the atmosphere as well as impending doom on the wind. Whether from their heightened sense of smell or a special sixth sense, dogs will always be heroes in times of crisis.

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10 Surprising Things Dogs Smell That Humans Can’t

#7 – Drugs

Dogs have long been used to find illegal drugs. Though criminals go to great lengths to disguise drugs, they can’t outsmart an olfactory sense that far outperforms our own. A hound’s nose knows! And it’s not just the nose itself that smells out the chemicals better. Phoenix Veterinary Center tells us, “the part of a dog’s brain that is devoted to analyzing smells is about 40 times greater than ours.”

#8 – Explosives and Weapons

Research by the University of Alberta reveals, “Trained dogs can detect fire accelerants such as gasoline in quantities as small as one-billionth of a teaspoon.” Like drugs, explosives and weapons can be easily detected by trained dogs.

10 Surprising Things Dogs Smell That Humans Can’t

#9 – Bed Bugs

Just the mere mention of these pests can make us shiver, but good news, dog lover. Dogs have the ability to smell bed bugs and pest control companies have even employed dogs to sniff them out. But how do dogs find bedbugs? These nasty, little invaders produce an odor from their scent glands that’s easy to pick up with a high-powered snout. But with our weaker scent capabilities, people can only smell large infestations. In situations like bedbugs, perhaps it’s better there are things dogs can smell that humans can’t.

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#10 – Whale Poop

Dogs can smell whale poop up to 1.6 miles away. Don’t believe it? Read about a rescue dog who excels at sniffing out whale poop!

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