We believe that dogs have the potential to detect the virus COVID–19. Medical Detection Dogs has always adopted a rigorous scientific approach to its work and the results of its work have been published in a number of peer reviewed research papers. These results have further supported our shared belief that diseases have their own unique odour that dogs have the ability to detect.
In principle, we are sure that dogs have the potential to detect COVID-19.
How will our dogs be able to help?
Our aim is that our COVID–19 detection dogs will be able to passively screen any individual, including those who are asymptomatic, and indicate to our dog handlers whether they have detected the COVID–19 virus. This will then need to be confirmed by a medical test. This would be fast, effective and non-invasive and make sure limited NHS testing resources are only used where they are really needed.
If our research is successful, we may be able to use COVID-19 detection dogs in public places such as airports, and at large gatherings. This would help prevent the second wave of the disease after we have brought the present pandemic under control.
When will they be ready?
We have a number of intensively pre-trained detector dogs that could be fully trained in 8-10 weeks.
How many dogs will you train?
The initial phase will see six bio-detection dogs undergo intensive training to be ready in 8-10 weeks. After this, we will then move into a second phase where we will train a further intake of dogs.
How will you train them?
Dogs searching for COVID-19 would be trained in the same way as those dogs the charity has already trained to detect diseases like cancer, Parkinson’s and bacterial infections – by sniffing samples in a training room and indicating when they have found it.
Is it safe for the dogs?
We will keep in constant contact with scientists and veterinarians to confirm the latest understandings, however it is currently believed that this is completely safe for dogs to perform this duty. Scientists have found that although COVID-19 is a novel virus that originated from animals and was passed on to humans, dogs cannot contract the disease. The dogs will be trained on non-infectious samples and will not need to make contact with the individuals they are screening.
Will dogs spread the virus?
No, our dogs will be trained on a dead virus and then have no contact with the individuals they are screening. Instead, they will sniff the air around the individual. The dogs are only be permitted to be touched by the handler, and there is only a very low risk of spread of the virus from the dog to their handler.
How will you get samples to train the dogs?
The dogs will be trained on samples obtained though the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.