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Can sniffer dogs detect Covid-19?

Sniffer dogs are an extremely valuable tool for K9 security purposes, drug detection purposes and to keep people safe- in this case, from a deadly virus. Dog’s have heightened senses, meaning that they are great at detecting certain smells that humans can’t. You probably already understand that dogs are great at sniffing, but how do they detect something like a virus? 

In this blog, we will discuss how effective dogs are at detecting Covid, what has been found by researchers and how they could help people live normally again.
If you’re looking for dogs for security purposes, take a look at Pride GB today.

Could sniffer dogs be more effective than rapid lateral flow tests?

Researchers have found that Covid sniffer dogs could be more effective than rapid lateral flow tests for detecting cases of Covid-19. So much so that sniffer dogs could be used in airports, killing two birds with one stone: detecting drugs and detecting the virus. 

Researchers have reported that the deadly virus has a ‘distinctive odour’ meaning that dogs have the ability to smell it. With the right training, dogs could reduce the risk of Covid infection in vulnerable people, by detecting Covid-19 in people with the virus- even if they don’t have any symptoms. 

Surprisingly, Covid sniffer dogs can accurately smell and signal 94% of cases, resulting in a more thorough and accurate percentage than found in rapid lateral flow tests. This means that dogs can be effective at more than just K9 security.

What did the scientists find?

A group of scientists from the University of Durham and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine stated that their findings have ‘exceeded all expectations’. This means that Covid sniffer dogs could be used in work environments, theatres and stadiums in the near future. In fact, the scientists have already been in conversations with the Department of Health and the World Health Organisation regarding Covid sniffer dogs being used in airports. 

The most astonishing findings showed that 300 passengers could be screened in under 30 minutes. Once a dog had identified Covid-19, the infected person/s would then receive a PCR test to confirm the findings.

The training process

The Covid sniffer dogs were trained by the charity Medical Detection Dogs by using body odour samples. 3,500 samples including socks and t-shirts from the public and NHS staff were used for the training. 

The Covid sniffer dogs were trained for eight weeks, before being put to the ultimate test to see if they were competent in detecting the virus in a randomised, controlled trial. The test used 200 positive samples and 200 negative samples. 

There were a variety of dogs used, including labradors, cocker spaniels and retrievers. The Covid sniffer dogs all did an exceptional job, resulting in an accuracy of over 82%. Some of the dogs had an even higher accuracy score, with the best-performing dogs having an accuracy of 94.3%. This could be great for spaces where you need to detect Covid in crowded areas, quickly and effectively. This means that dogs can be trained in a similar way as they would for K9 security purposes and be just as effective at finding covid. 

This result has gained attention as Covid sniffer dogs are even more accurate than lateral flow tests, which have an accuracy of between 58-77%. When comparing this to the higher accuracy of 94% given by Covid sniffer dogs, you wonder why they aren’t used more already.

A dogs medical potential is not fully understood yet, which is why this hasn’t as of yet been used for medical purposes. With this new research though, it is only a matter of time before Covid sniffer dogs are used and loved for the benefit of everybody. Although they might not be used quite yet, sniffer dogs are still highly effective in drug, explosive detection and K9 Security.


Thank you for reading our blog ‘Can sniffer dogs detect Covid-19?’. If you’re looking for dogs trained for security purposes, take a look at Pride GB today.