Dogs can sniff COVID-19 patients
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Dogs can sniff COVID-19 patients in crowds – German study 

One of the most effective ways to stop the spread of COVID-19 is early detection followed by isolation, but, the asymptomatic, and presymptomatic transmission of the diseases poses a large challenge. As the virus can spread rapidly in crowded places, such people can cause local outbreaks of the disease unknowingly.

According to a study, released in the journal Infectious Diseases conducted by a team of scientists from the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Germany, claimed that dogs can sniff and detect COVID-19 patients in a crowd with high accuracy.

It was claimed by Col PK Chug, a Consulting director, the police K9 cell, the Ministry of Home Affairs that if dogs are trained, they can sniff and detect COVID-19 people from their body smell. But, the screening would work only if they have a success rate of more than 90%.

The research study suggests a detection rate of 94%. The scientists say that trained dogs can be used to lower the spread of the COVID-19 by finding people with coronavirus infection in public areas like mass gatherings and airports.

Findings of the study

8 dogs were trained to identify the

saliva and/or respiratory secretions of patients with COVID-19 infection by the scientists for 1 week.

COVID-19 samples (100 µL) were placed on a cotton pad, which was placed in a 4 mL glass tube in such a way that the dog can smell it out via a grid, and does not get directly exposed to the virus. The samples were placed together with known negative samples for the dogs to detect.

The dogs were given a total of 1,012 randomized samples, where the dogs showed a 94% average detection rate with 157 positives, 792 negatives, 30 false negatives, and 33 false positives. The testing specificity was 96.34% and sensitivity was 82.63%.

Test specificity is the capacity to identify real negatives accurately and sensitivity is the ability to identify true positives accurately. According to the research, RT-PCR has 2.3 – 6.9% of the false-positive rate.

Strong sense of smell

The strong sense of smell in dogs is used by humans to identify and differentiate smells, such as different blood, medicines, etc. Compared to humans, a dog’s olfactory sense is said to be 10,000 – 100,000 times much stronger. Dogs have a great ability to detect a substance at a concentration of one part per trillion, this ability is used by humans in various field!

Additionally, dogs can detect various diseases including infections caused by bacteria and viruses, cancer, malaria, etc. The human body or the infectious microbe produces particular compounds that dogs can sniff out and can be trained to do so.

Things to consider

The possibility of dogs becoming virus spreader is one of the crucial things that the research study suggested. Although humans can transmit the virus to animals, it is unknown whether dogs can transmit the infection to people. Likewise, there is concern about the impact on the dog’s sense of odor due to the virus. The whole work may be worthless if a dog gets infected due to sniffing the samples and it in some way affects its sense of smell.

So before dogs can be considered to detect COVID-19 positive patients, definitely further researches are required to discover answers to all these concerns.


Dogs can sniff COVID-19 patients in crowds – German study 

Author: Sruthi S

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