The next time you go to your doctor, take a moment to imagine her/him as a dog. Then imagine that dog sniffing you for a while. Finally, imagine the dog giving you a diagnosis.

Now come back to the real world – but, hey, this is the new real world of medicine. Dogs are now taking on frontline work in the battle to detect cancer and to alert people with life-threatening conditions to changes that place them at risk.

A British charity is spearheading work to use dogs to assist the medical profession in their work with patients. Medical Detection Dogs also known as Cancer and Bio-detection Dogs is “an organisation that trains dogs to identify human disease by odour... currently working on a number of pioneering research projects involving canine olfaction, including the training of dogs to detect cancer, blood sugar changes, Addison’s disease and narcolepsy”.

We are well accustomed by now to seeing guide dogs and to hearing about sniffer dogs assisting police and the Armed Forces. The introduction of cancer and bio-detection dogs adds further professional elements to these wonderful animals. If you are planning to donate to charity this Christmas, this might well be the charity for you.