A few special dogs have been trained to sniff out COVID-19 in BC

Aug 12 2021, 6:25 pm

Vancouver Coastal Health’s (VCH) canine scent detection team has been hard at work for over five years, but now these dogs have a new tool in their arsenal: the ability to sniff out COVID-19.

In an effort to increase COVID-19 infection prevention, VCH health professionals have been training a few talented pups.

Some possible implementations of this could include screening at airports, cruise ships, or public events.

“The ability of the healthcare workers, researchers, dog handlers, and three talented dogs at Vancouver Coastal Health to develop a new virus scent detection program from scratch is an enormous accomplishment,” said BC Minister of Health Adrian Dix.

The team comprises Micro and Yoki, two Labrador retrievers, and Finn, a springer spaniel.

Training dogs to sniff out any virus, let alone COVID-19, is a tall task. The training began six months ago.



“Every dog can sniff, but not every dog can work,” said Teresa Zurberg, Canine Scent Detection Specialist and nationally recognized canine handler. “We worked with scent detection teams around the world to find dogs that have the right combination of genetics and also the potential to do this work.” 

Micro and Finn were validated for COVID-19 scent detection earlier this month.



Micro had a 100% sensitivity in identifying COVID-19 in a lab environment, with Finn close behind at 93%.



VCH points out that dogs have over 300 million olfactory receptors, and they are known to be able to detect threats to human health, which include bacterial and viral infections.

A dog’s sense of smell is believed to be about 1,000 times more sensitive than that of its human counterparts.

Amir AliAmir Ali

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