Sign In

Dogs are being trained to sniff out coronavirus

March 30, 2020

Extensive testing for the novel coronavirus is a crucial weapon against the pandemic, as seen in countries like South Korea, which was able to significantly flatten the curve and Germany, which is testing an average of 500,000 people a week. COVID-19 screening can help authorities get a better picture of the number of active cases in hot zones and provide early care to everyone testing positive, especially the elderly and those with preexisting health conditions.

The problem many countries have to face is that there aren’t enough test kits to go around. But what if dogs could sniff out people who are infected and pinpoint them in a crowd?

The charity Medical Detection Dogs partnered with Durham University and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) on a trial to see if dogs can sniff out COVID-19 patients.

The charity has trained dogs to spot malaria, cancer and Parkinson’s patients, as each disease has its own scent, BBC reports. LSHTM head of disease control Professor James Logan said that research proved dogs could detect malaria infections by odor with a level of accuracy “above the World Health Organization standards for a diagnostic.”

That doesn’t mean good boys will be as good as recognizing a particular smell for the novel coronavirus, of course. But if they are, they could be used in all sorts of cases to sniff out potential carriers within large groups of people. The dog test would then be confirmed by an actual COVID-19 test.

The dogs could be ready in six weeks, assuming the trial yields positive results. However, this method of testing will be of limited use, considering it can’t be scaled to meet current needs. But the dogs might be useful down the road to prevent the reemergence of COVID-19 and catch future outbreaks early.

The charity is studying ways to “safely catch the odor of the virus from patients,” according to its boss, Dr. Claire Guest. It’s not just safety for humans, but also from dogs. A 17-year-old Pomeranian tested positive in Hong Kong. Initially, it wasn’t clear whether the dog had the disease, but successive tests showed he developed antibodies for the infection. The dog was released back home after testing negative, but then died of old age.

Register your Dog Schedule a Visit

  • Recent News

    Pet Therapy Program

    Saturday, October 10 is World Mental Health Day, which this year has a new sense of urgency for many. Covid-19 has taken a mental and emotional toll on healthcare workers across the U.S but there is a program boosting the spirits of doctors and nurses on the frontlines. At UC Irvine Medical Center in Southern […]

    Read more

    AMR Therapy Dog

    Rampart, a therapy dog with American Medical Response San Bernardino County, recently passed his Certified Therapy Dog exam. AMR acquired Rampart, a 1½-year-old goldendoodle, when he was 10 weeks old. Rampart started basic obedience classes when he was 4 months old and continued through advanced obedience classes, according to a news release. When he was […]

    Read more

    Workers Get Canine Interactions

    It was a long, boring spring and summer for the four-footed members of the Alliance of Therapy Dogs, who couldn’t visit nursing homes and hospitals giving tail wags and doggy smiles. The coronavirus paused the professional canine therapeutic interactions with patients and hospital workers. “You could actually see him falling into a depression at home,” said Wendy Kadish of […]

    Read more

    Therapy Dog Program

    An initiative by Cyndy Caravelis, associate professor of criminology and criminal justice at Western Carolina University, will include a pilot program to use a therapy dog to aid domestic violence victims and their families in Jackson County. Caravelis’ German shepherd Atlas will escort victims and family members into court procedures and stay with children while […]

    Read more

    Therapy Dogs Working With Staff

    After a pause due to COVID-19, the St. John Ambulance Abbotsford therapy dog team recently returned to visit staff at several different correctional facilities in the Fraser Valley. The PAWS inside program originally began at the Alouette Correctional Centre for Women five years ago and started off by providing services to inmates. Last year, the […]

    Read more

    Therapy Dog Bringing Comfort

    The Marion County Sheriff’s Office has a special K-9 who plays an important role. While most K-9s help in crime scenes and investigations, Comfort Caj is crime therapy dog and brings smiles to the community and the sheriff’s office. “He really brings a light and energy to this whole building, that you can’t fathom, you […]

    Read more

    Montgomery County's Therapy Dog

    Montgomery County has a new tool to help give crime victims some support. That tool’s name is Zurg. Zurg is the new therapy dog for the Montgomery County district attorney’s office. Montgomery County District Attorney Daryl Bailey introduced Zurg as the newest member of the team Monday. Coming from Canine Companions for Independence, Zurg will […]

    Read more