Can dogs detect COVID-19?
Dogs are incredible – scientists reckon that they can detect some odours in concentrations as low as one part per trillion!
I’m blown away when one of our dogs locates and points a single grouse in fifty acres of heather but it gets much more impressive than that - dogs can detect that a person has malaria to a degree of accuracy above the World Health Organisation standards for a diagnostic test!
Medical Detection Dogs
Medical Detection Dogs (MDD) was established 10 years ago to train dogs to detect cancer following the publication of a paper in the British Medical Journal indicating they could be trained to smell human bladder cancer.
MDD are working alongside both the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Durham University to retrain six rescue and assistance dogs to detect the scent of Covid 19.
The first six trainees have become known as the ‘Super Six’. Two year old Norman, one year old Jasper, and five year old Asher are all working Cocker Spaniels; two year old Star and three year old Storm are Labradors; and 20 month old Digby is the lone Labradoodle.
A non-invasive test
Medical Detection Dogs are collecting samples of breath and sweat from people that have tested positive for Covid-19, which are then 'made safe'. The dogs will be intensively trained in the MDD’s training room, over a six to eight-week period, to detect this scent. The dogs will then be able to detect the scent in the air around the person without the need for direct contact. The charity is extremely hopeful that the dogs will be successful in this quest as there has not been a disease to date that the dogs have been unable to detect!
Assuming the venture is successful, the plan is for many more dogs to be trained up to further aid in the coronavirus battle by providing a rapid and non-invasive diagnosis. This could positively impact our current response to Covid-19 and be useful longer term to help prevent a resurgence of the disease once this epidemic is under control. Detection dogs could be used in a variety of public spaces to rapidly detect disease and at airports to quickly identify those people entering the country with the virus.
You can help
For more information on this and the other amazing work these dogs do see https://www.medicaldetectiondogs.org.uk
Why not make a donation? - The Red Dog Company have sponsored a puppy.
Alison graduated from Cambridge University, in Veterinary medicine and surgery, in 1999. She initially worked in mixed practice before concentrating on domestic animals for the next 16 years. When Alison isn’t working as a vet, she is helping The Red Dog Company make the very best luxury dog beds and accessories available.