Aug 16 2020

Dogs are being Trained to Sniff out Positive cases of COVID-19

Published by at 11:39 am under General

Dogs are being trained to “sniff out” positive cases of  COVID-19. 1*
With their acute sense of smell, dogs continue to alert humans to dangers of all kinds.  

A few weeks ago, we talked about how dogs serve us in ways that benefit both our mental and physical health. Having the love and companionship of a good pet can do wonders. Dogs have been loyal companions for humans and have served us in various ways over the years and when trained properly, can do remarkable things.

They act as emotional support pets and service animals. They alert us when someone approaches our home. They can sniff out IEDs on the battlefield and narcotics in airports, borders, and on the streets. They can help detect hypoglycemia in diabetics and can be trained to alert their person when they are about to have an epileptic seizure. They can even sniff out some types of cancer. And now, dog trainers have been able to teach dogs to detect whether a person is positive for COVID-19. Their great potential in dealing with the current pandemic could make a big difference in curtailing the spread of this virus.1*

According to PetMD, a dog’s sense of smell is 100,000 times more powerful than a human’s and on average has 220 million scent receptors. They can smell separately with each nostril and have the ability to breathe in and out at the same time. The dogs chosen for this work have been mainly German Shepards and hound dogs among others. In experimental trials, they were able, with their keen sense of smell, to detect the virus in people who were positive, but asymptomatic. The possibility to have trained dogs able to detect people who are positive yet asymptomatic could be a game-changer for preventing people from unwittingly going out in public, getting on planes or entering crowded situations and unknowingly spreading the virus to others.(1,2,3)*

The pilot project led by the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, the Hannover Medical School and the German Armed Forces trained dogs by using samples of sweat from people who are infected with the virus. They found that “…if properly trained, dogs were able to discriminate between human saliva samples infected with SARS-CoV-2 and non-infected samples with a 94% success rate overall…” (1,2)*

Across the globe, coronavirus detector dogs are being trained in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Chile, Argentina, Brazil, France, and Belgium. In the UAE, detector dogs have already been stationed at various airports and have started helping to control the spread of COVID-19. It is useful in many scenarios, such as screening people at airports and state borders, large concert or sporting events, schools, as well as monitoring caretakers and employees working with those in high-risk categories before they enter their workplace. It benefits these workers so they wouldn’t need to be continually tested for the virus with a nasal swab. The dogs would do the testing.1*

How can a dog smell a virus? While the researchers don’t know exactly what the dog is smelling, they believe they are detecting a complex mix of volatile organic compounds or VOCs that are given off in sweat samples. They believe they smell “…a particular profile as opposed to an individual compound…” According to Maren von Koeckritz-Blickwede, a professor at the university involved with the study, they believe the dogs are able to do detect the virus because “…the metabolic processes of an infected person completely change…”4*

They use sweat as opposed to saliva for the tests as it is not considered to be infectious for COVID-19 so it is believed to be of less risk for those handling the samples. 1*

In experimental studies, dogs have not been shown to be able to replicate the coronavirus, and are therefore not a source of infection. But to be careful, the device that is used to train the dogs prevents the dogs from coming into direct contact with the sweat sample. The animal’s nose goes into a stainless steel cone, with the sample in a separate receptacle, which allows them to sniff the VOCs, without making physical contact with the sweat. This is an additional precaution for both the trainer and the dog. Additionally, the dogs undergo regular checkups to make sure there are no antibodies and so far, none have been detected.  

The next step in this training would be to have the dogs differentiate between the coronavirus and other viruses or the flu. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while dogs can get infected with Covid-19, there is no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading the virus. Of any cases where they were potentially exposed, none have appeared to show any symptoms.4*

As medical professionals, researchers, scientists and other health care professionals from all over the world continue to work together to find a vaccine, treatments and accurate tests for this coronavirus, we are encouraged to do our part by staying socially distant, wearing a face mask in public, washing our hands. Keeping our immune systems strong is equally essential and that formula hasn’t changed…eat right, sleep enough, exercise, and keep your microbiome healthy with balanced nutrition, lots of fiber and a daily regimen of Body Biotics™ Bio-Identical SBO Probiotics Consortia™. While these are tough times, continue to stay the course, be kind to others including strangers and be part of the solution not the problem.

Healthiest wishes,





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