Second Chance: Can Dogs Sniff Out Covid-19?

Second Chance: Can Dogs Sniff Out Covid-19?

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The power of the pet has never been more apparent than in these past weeks. And now, beyond providing the physical comfort and emotional support people are truly needing, pets are also being looked to for the bigger role of helping to control this pandemic. COVID-19 is bringing new meaning to the power of the pet.

Dogs have 256 million more olfactory nerves in their nose than humans do and their noses have been employed for a variety of tasks over the years, from sniffing narcotics and explosives to tracking missing persons, etc. Now they may be instrumental in helping identify asymptomatic COVID-19 carriers, truly one of the biggest hurdles to addressing the pandemic.

Scientists in London say that dogs could in fact revolutionize the hunt for Covid-19 by sniffing out subtle odors produced by the virus within the human body. The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine is crowdfunding a project to train canines to detect those who haven’t yet realized they are carriers. If the project is successful, pet detectives could be in the field by summer.

Although still in early stages, James Logan, head of LSHTM’s Department of Disease Control stated, “We know diseases have odors, including respiratory diseases such as influenza and that those odors are in fact quite distinct. There is a very, very good chance that Covid-19 has a specific odor and, if it does, I am really confident that the dogs would be able to learn and detect it.”

Dogs are already used to diagnose many medical conditions, including Parkinson’s disease and several types of cancer. They also alert diabetics when their blood sugar is too low and signal those with seizure disorders to a pending seizure. The LSHTM has already trained dogs to detect malaria. Their success rate far exceeds required WHO standards.

If the project works, dogs could be deployed to screen staff at hospitals and care homes and, once regular travel resumes, sniff out unwitting carriers at airports and rail stations. Capable of screening thousands of people per day, dogs could be a key tool for more quickly reducing the impact of the pandemic, giving a new meaning to “person’s best friend”…

It is my feline duty to point out that cats (the “best friend of cool people”) have big powers too, but as we are more subtle creatures and not big on travel and hanging around airports, Our powers are best activated at home. For example, many cat-people are reporting their pets have been more attentive and affectionate these past weeks, when most needed.

But our powers save lives too. Many great stories attest to this. My favorite is of a cat who saved his person by incessantly placing his paw over his person’s lungs for days, which led to discovering the man had an (operable) huge tumor in his lung.

My powers are discreet, but strong. At the Second Chance Shelter, where I have been waiting far too long for my forever family to discover me, I am a dutiful office assistant for the staff, subtly making sure they know I am here for them. My sweet and spicy four-year-young self loves giving dogs smooches, although not much of a fan of other cats, and I am ready to put my powers to work for you. Just ask for Gracie.

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