Dunedin puppy being trained to smell signs of ovarian cancer in fight against deadly disease

One Dunedin puppy could hold the key to diagnosing more Kiwi women with ovarian cancer each year.

The disease is one of the hardest to detect - and one of the deadliest - claiming a life every 48 hours.

New Zealand's rates of ovarian cancer are among the highest in the world. The main signs of it are bloating and abdominal pain and late detection is a constant problem for medical experts.

But four-month-old Hunter's nose could hold the key to saving their lives. He's one of eight dogs searching for all forms of cancer at Dunedin's K9 Medical Detection Facility.

"He is showing he's going to be a top medical detection dog," CEO Pauline Blomfield told Newshub.

But don't expect a surprise diagnosis in the street, anytime soon.

"Hunter and any of our dogs do not go out into the public and sniff people, everything is done inside, in a laboratory setting," Blomfield added.

In what's believed to be a world-first, the German Shepherd pup is being trained to specifically find signs of ovarian cancer in urine samples.

K9 Medical Detection's Melanie Kerr said dogs have an incredible sense of smell which means Hunter can smell out the disease.

"Dogs can detect, with their incredible sense of smell, up to one to two parts per trillion. To put that into context - that would be like us detecting a teaspoon of sugar, mixed into two Olympic swimming pools of water," Kerr said.

There are hopes Hunter will help people get a diagnosis earlier.

"Generally most people who present with ovarian cancer had it for quite some time before they develop symptoms," Gynaecological cancer specialist Peter Sykes

Hunter wasn't just plucked off the street - his bloodline has a proven track record.

"His dad is the top police dog for Europe 2022 - so genetics is really, really important for us," Blomfield said.

And while the results may be a step in the right direction - it's still not the golden answer gynaecologists are looking for.

"The rate of conversion from great idea to what really makes a difference is quite small. It doesn't mean it won't, so we need to keep working on these new things," Sykes said.

New things which could improve the outcomes, for hundreds of Kiwi women.

"The exciting thing about this is, it's dogs and science working together. I think this is a real game-changer in the fight against ovarian cancer," Kerr said.

One good boy on his way to doing very good things.