It is no wonder that our amazing canine companions may end up having a huge role to play in controlling the COVID-19 pandemic. Dogs have about 50 times as many scent receptors as humans and a highly developed olfactory system. From the beginning of dog domestication, man has learned to depend on this canine ability to detect and discern scents that, as humans, we cannot even begin to detect with our noses. Dogs became great companions for hunting and tracking our food sources. In modern times their noses have aided in detecting explosives, drugs, tracking lost children, even detecting cancers. Now scientists are working hard to see if they can help detect COVID-19 and initial results are promising.
A Finnish study at the University of Helsinki is looking into dogs being able to detect compounds in urine of COVID-19 patients. The novel Coronavirus not only attacks the respiratory system, but also other organs, including the kidneys, such that specific compounds are present in the urine of patients with the disease. It appears that dogs are able to accurately detect and differentiate the scent of urine samples of COVID-19 patients versus urine samples of healthy individuals. For more information of the study: https://www.helsinki.fi/en/news/health-news/the-finnish-covid-dogs-nose-knows
But wouldn’t it be great if a dog did not need a urine sample to detect the disease and could just pick up the scent of COVID-19 on a person? Potentially dogs that were trained to sniff people for the disease could screen hundreds of people as they pass through airports, train stations, entering sporting events, anywhere that large crowds could be screened to prevent transmission. Dogs could become a key player in protecting humans from this disease. An ongoing study at University of Pennsylvania is looking at this possibility by testing the canine ability to detect the scent in saliva as well as urine. For more information on this study: https://www.vet.upenn.edu/about/press-room/press-releases/article/penn-vet-launches-covid-19-canine-scent-detection-study
Researchers are hopeful that in the near future dogs will become key players in the fight against COVID-19. Thank you to our beloved canines! You have given us company during isolation, companionship on our walks, unconditional love and snuggles during this pandemic, and now you are helping us detect and control this disease. We love you doggies!