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How Dogs are Detecting the Coronavirus
Across the globe researchers are racing to find a solution to the global pandemic inducing COVID-19 . From detection to treatment, there is still much to be learned about the virus and how to prevent a second wave of the fatal strain.
Like Timmy in the Well…
Help seems to be on the way in the form of “man’s best friend”. A study published by the University of Helsinki has added one more skill to dog’s already impressive resume. The study found that scent detection trained canines have the ability to smell the virus in urine samples obtained by both positive and negative tested individuals. Upon future test results, the study hopes this information will be able to assist in the prevention of mass or cluster infection by utilizing scent detection dogs in airports, hospitals, and other high-risk exposure environments.
Due to being equipped with approximately 100 million sensory receptors, dogs utilize both smell AND sight together to analyze things around them. While these canines can’t see the virus, the amount of space in their brain devoted to analyzing and interpreting smells is 40 times greater than their human counterpart. This kind of biology has made these animals historically supportive in almost every aspect of human life.
While all dogs have these receptors, there are breeds more frequently trained due to a particularly heightened sniffer. Breeds such as Labrador Retriever, German Shepard, and Belgian Malinois have a long history of scent detection for hunting, security, and military purposes.
Protecting the Pups
As for the protection of our furry forensic investigators, those undertaking the research have utilized a distance model to expose dogs to the scent without getting them close enough to risk of infection. The CDC has confirmed dogs can carry trace amounts of the virus on their bodies, and has confirmed a few cases of dogs contracting the virus similarly to human infection.
The hunt for a cure starts with detection. From researchers in universities across the world, to a seasoned trainer and former Air Force survival instructor in Florida, studies are proving over and over that dogs ability to detect the virus proves almost perfect. While still early, this type of discovery offers hope for an end of a global pandemic.