Can Dogs Sniff Out Covid-19?
Posted on August 21st, 2020 to Health
Dogs have over 220 million olfactory receptors. You can think of them as scent sensors. To give this some perspective, we only have about 5 million. Due to their incredible ability to sniff out about anything, it comes as no shock that dogs have been used in the medical world to sniff out disease. Their receptors are so in-tune, they can detect a substance at one part per trillion. This is equivalent to a single drop in twenty Olympic-size swimming pools!
When it comes to sniffing out COVID-19, this case is no different. Dogs are being trained, and have been trained, to sniff out cancer. Of course, scientists would give dogs a chance at the virus causing a pandemic.
Beginning in March, an international research team led by Dominique Grandjean at France’s National Veterinary School of Alfort, started training dogs to become COVID detectors
The dogs learned COVID detection using sweat samples from those infected. When introduced to the sweat samples now, the dogs can sniff out COVID with nearly 100% accuracy.
Training dogs to sniff out Coronavirus isn’t only happening in France, though. Dogs around the globe in Brazil, Belgium, Chile, and other areas are now learning the trend.
How Early Can this be Detected?
Researchers have found COVID detector dogs were able to detect SARS-CoV-2 prior to them even testing positive. Before any symptoms, detector dogs can tell us when a person has been infected with COVID-19 (although we aren’t exactly sure what they smell in there).
The chemicals given off from our body’s sweat glands are extremely complex. So, why sweat? Sweat contains a unique blend of chemicals, plus it’s not considered infectious making it the perfect candidate for this type of test.
What Does the Study Look Like?
The results of the study are presented based on eight dogs who followed through the research process. A total of 232 trials were conducted using 33 positive samples from France. An additional 136 trials were conducted with 68 positive samples from Lebanon.
To ensure this ‘wasn’t just luck,’ a research method known as Clopper-Pearson’s method was implemented. This determines the proportion of successes for one dog out of the total number of trials. The probability the positive correlation was based on chance was determined null and void.
Another Study Determines Accuracy
A pilot study was conducted by the University Veterinary Medicine Hannover where eight dogs from Germany’s armed forces trained for five days prior to having the ability to sniff out the virus with accuracy.
The dogs were able to sniff the saliva of more than 1,000 people and identify who had the virus with 94% accuracy.
According to Dr. Maren Von Kockritz-Blickwede, “this works because metabolic processes in the body of a diseased patient is completely changed, and we think that the dogs are able to detect a specific smell of the metabolic changes that occur in these patients.”
Dr. Holger Volk, another professor where Dr. Maren teaches, said dogs have a sense of smell that is 1,000 times better than ours, so their potential here is magnificent. He went on to state, “we know for a very long time that dogs have been used in a lot of walks of life, but for medical detection, it’s a novel at the end of the day. People have not really realized the potential a dog could have to detect diseased from non-diseased patients.”
Confidence in their Ability
The United Arab Emirates are so confident in their dog’s ability to sniff out COVID-19, dogs have their own posts at airports for rapid testing.
This is one of the first environments dogs have been utilized in a real-world coronavirus environment.
The UAE (United Arab Emirates) has determined this to be an excellent way to save travelers from waiting hours upon hours for their results. Some results may even take days. They realized the detrimental effects it could have on their economy and decided dogs’ accuracy was high enough to detect successfully.
According to the Emirates News Agency, when passengers arrive in Dubai, they pass through an area where body odor is taken (generally from the armpits). The passenger waits a few minutes for the sample to go to another room where a detector dog is awaiting the sample. If the dog detects COVID-19, the passenger is directed to the nasal PCR test.
The New Normal
We all keep hearing of this ‘new normal’ that has taken over since the pandemic. Around the globe, scientists are scattering attempting to put together a good detection method. We want the tests to be fast, painless, and accurate.
According to these studies, dogs bring all of those to the table. Unfortunately, there has not been enough testing done to make sure this is scientifically proven. But, in the meantime, we at least know there’s a possibility. And, that possibility is so high that other countries have started testing the hypothesis in real-world environments.
About Angela Ardolino
Angela Ardolino is a holistic pet expert who has been caring for animals for over 20 years and operates a rescue farm, Fire Flake Farm, in Florida. She is also the owner of Beautify the Beast, a natural pet salon and shop. After getting her certificate in Medical Cannabis Biology and Therapeutic use from the University of Vermont School of Medicine, she founded CBD Dog Health to provide high quality, all-natural medical cannabis products designed specifically for pets. Angela has seven dogs, Odie a 12-year-old mini-schnauzer, Nina an 8-year-old Doberman. Jolene a 7-year-old mutt, Maza a 7-year-old mutt, Rhemi an 8-year-old poodle, Potato a 15-year-old shih-tzu, and Miss Daisie a 15-year-old black lab, plus 4-10 more at any time she is fostering or boarding. She uses Full Spectrum Hemp Extract on all her pets at her rescue farm every day, and has since 2016. She is a member of the Society of Cannabis Clinicians, the Veterinary Cannabis Association and has trained hundreds medical doctors and veterinarians about the therapeutic uses of medical cannabis on animals. Visit www.angelaardolino.com for more information.