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These Good Good Doggos Can Smell COVID-19

a good dog

It’s National Dog Day, so it’s fitting that on this day when we appreciate the kindest, most loving and loyal species on the planet, we get to talk about some good good pups who are putting their canine sense to work for us useless humans yet again by sniffing out COVID-19.

The ability of dogs to smell diseases in patients, like cancer, is well documented, but that doesn’t stop it from being amazing. The potential for dogs to be trained to sniff out the coronavirus is equally awesome and also very real. Right now, when rapid detection of the virus could make a big difference in slowing the spread, the potential of a test with instant results and wagging tail is extremely attractive. And that’s what a team of researchers in Germany have shown is possible.

The University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover (TiHo) led the study and found seriously promising results with dogs being able to detect COVID out of various samples. In the study dogs were able to accurately smell COVID, with correct positives 83% of the time and 96% correct negatives.

This is amazing and could be massively useful for detecting COVID-19 in crowded places like airports or other events. But are dogs actually smelling a virus? We’re not sure. The scientists believe that the pups may be smelling a change in metabolic process that comes with infection and affects the entire body.

Here’s TiHo explaining the study.

So the dogs were trained pretty simply, getting a treat each time that they correctly identified a COVID-19 sample. So, can we get these sweet disease detectors out in the field ASAP? Well … no. This is just a pilot test, but the result are extremely promising and they highlight just how amazing dogs are.

This pandemic has been scary and lonely for so many of us, but one thing that’s kept people safe, sane, and feeling loved in lockdown has been pets. From bunnies and betas to cats and bearded dragons, the animals that we share our lives with do their part simply by existing to make our little worlds better. Just petting a dog reduces stress, and all of these amazing little creatures brighten our lives in so many ways already, it’s honestly humbling and inspiring that we continue to discover new ways for dogs and other pets to help us survive in this world we might not even deserve.

So, here’s to the Dogs, who not only love and tolerate us but are ready to help save lives as long as they get a treat and a scratch for it. When someone asks these corona sniffing pups, “who’s a good dog?” I hope they know the answer is them.

(via: Nerdist, image: Pexels)

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Jessica Mason (she/her) is a writer based in Portland, Oregon with a focus on fandom, queer representation, and amazing women in film and television. She's a trained lawyer and opera singer as well as a mom and author.