Dogs may be some of the world’s most effective disease detectives.
In January, before COVID-19 was known to have arrived on our shores, NPR wrote about the dogs’ ability to smell disease. The host of Medical Monday interviewed Maria Goodavage, author of Doctor Dogs: How Our Best Friends Are Becoming Our Best Medicine, who said:
“With ovarian cancer, there's not much great testing for early detection. I heard about these dogs at the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary Working Dog Center that are able to smell ovarian cancer. They're able to detect it as early as stage one. We're not even talking tumors here. They're able to detect ovarian cancer in one drop of plasma from a woman with ovarian cancer.”
Doctor dogs also are being trained to detect the novel coronavirus. Reuters reported, “A study recently found dogs can identify infected individuals with 85 percent to 100 percent accuracy and rule out infection with 92 percent to 99 percent accuracy.”
Airports in Chile, the United Arab Emirates, and Finland have begun using teams of dogs to identify passengers who may be afflicted with the disease. Passengers and dogs do not interact directly. Instead, volunteers wipe gauze over their necks and wrists and place the gauze in a jar. The dogs smell the gauze to determine if COVID-19 is present.
Dog disease detectives could help restore consumer confidence in air travel and provide a layer of protection against infection. If the dogs are successful in airports, they may be deployed to hospitals, nursing homes, sports venues, and cultural events, said a Finnish professor of equine and small animal medicine who was cited by AFAR.com.