Canines have an amazing sense of smell but can dogs sniff out COVID-19? Scientists have found that a dog’s ability to smell is 10,000 to 100,000 times more intense than that of humans. Breeds such as beagles, bloodhounds, and golden retrievers are very impressive at scent work. Nowadays, many have even been trained to detect cancer before conventional medical tests can determine the malignancy so it is possible that a dog can sniff out COVID-19.
Finnish study looks at the question of can dogs sniff out COVID-19?
At the University of Helsinki, a study was carried out that examined if dogs can sniff out COVID-19. The goal was to see if the animals could pick up the unknown signature odor of the novel virus. The study revealed some interesting findings. Within a few weeks of working with the dogs, they were able to accurately distinguish between COVID-19 positive urine samples compared to those of non-infected individuals.
Anna Hielm-Bjorkman, the DogRisk group leader, stated, "We have solid experience in training disease-related scent detection dogs. It was fantastic to see how fast the dogs took to the new smell.”
The dogs used in the study were as reliable at detecting urine containing SARS-CoV-2 as a standard PCR test. Currently, the Finnish researchers are going to embark on a double-blind study to see if the dogs are as successful at finding the virus in a greater number of samples as they were in the limited test.
Researchers Around the World Examine Canines and COVID-19
In other parts of the world, such as Germany, France, and Great Britain, researchers are scrambling to train sniffer dogs to successfully detect COVID-19. The findings of the Finnish research team are very encouraging at spurring on the other global efforts.
Luca Barrett at the German Assistance Dog Center (TARSQ) states, "No one could tell us with certainty whether training with the aggressive virus is dangerous or not for humans and dogs. We wanted to gather more information first before we started training because the German virologists advised us against it — after all, so little is known about the virus so far."
Does COVID-19 Smell?
COVID-19 attacks the lungs and causes considerable damage to the body’s blood vessels, organs, and kidneys. It is believed that the virus does not actually smell but the changes that it spurs within the body make the urine’s odor change. The dog’s olfactory organ can detect subtle changes with amazing accuracy.
Barrett goes on to state, "According to one study, dogs can detect breast cancer with a 93% probability, for example. And lung cancer with a 97% probability.” Dogs are also being used to detect ovarian, skin, colon, and prostate malignancies with amazing accuracy.
Canines are also being used to detect Parkinson’s disease. In fact, many researchers theorize that sufferers of Parkinson’s disease start to change odor long before the diagnosis.
Early detection by a canine could prove highly beneficial in the fight against COVID-19.