Available studies have concluded dogs can detect COVID-19 in humans. But, to meet the needed aspects and requirements, training is essential.
Several universities and medical institutions began investigating whether dogs could detect COVID-19 in people in 2020. They stated that was achievable back then if canines were properly trained.
The University of Pennsylvania's School of Veterinary Medicine, on April 28, 2020, said the detection dogs were getting trained to discriminate between samples from COVID-19 positive and negative patients. This was by making them sniff samples from patients who have tested both positive and negative for COVID-19.
In an updated article on April 15, 2021, the university said dogs could sniff out COVID-19 odor. However, there is a need for future study and training with a diverse range of samples and various COVID-19 factors like a person's COVID-19 infection status, when was the person tested positive or negative, if a person is vaccinated or not, etc. The research also concluded that ''dogs should not be trained repeatedly on the samples from any single individual.''
Cynthia Otto, a senior author on the work, said, "Dogs have to be specific about detecting the odor of the infection, but they also have to generalize across the background odors of different people: men and women, adults and children, people of different ethnicities and geographies." Otto is also the director of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine Working Dog Center.
The research published in the journal PLOS ONE on April 14, 2021, found out that the dogs could sniff out COVID-19 positive samples with 96 percent accuracy. According to the study, the "Detection dogs, a biological sensor of VOCs, were utilized to investigate whether COVID-19 positive urine and saliva patient samples had a unique odor signature." Here VOC refers to volatile organic compounds. The presence of a distinct odor associated with COVID-19 infection in human urine and saliva has prompted odor-based screening methods. However, the studies suggest further training of dogs.
An article published in BMJ Journal showed that ''trained dogs can detect COVID-19 cases by smelling body fluids secretions." The article compared various studies and reported that the "evidence shows promising results in terms of sensitivity and specificity of the test."
It stressed that answers are still required about possible detection periods based on disease progression and risks associated with dog exposure. More data to specify standardized measures for the best fluid to test is needed. The operational procedures should be detailed, particularly on issues such as the dog's ability to detect the sickness over time and the potential for extinction.
It is necessary to standardize and diversify the means of interaction between the tested person and the dog, considering that some school-aged children or people may have trouble or fear coming into intimate contact with canines.
The available reports have suggested the dogs can sniff out the odor of COVID-19 in humans. But, a study is required to meet the sample diversification and the situation of the increasing infection rate. Constant training is necessary for dogs to meet the standards. Some details will need to be investigated more in future research. Hence, the claim is partly true.