Liberal Arts Blog — Covid Sniffing Dogs — 94% Accurate, but Hurdles Are Many

John Muresianu
3 min readJun 16, 2021

Liberal Arts Blog — Wednesday is the Joy of Science, Engineering, and Technology Day

Today’s Topic — Covid Sniffing Dogs — 94% Accurate, but Hurdles Are Many

You can’t make this stuff up. I love sweet little surprises. “Dogs with a few days of training are capable of identifying people infected with the coronavirus, according to a study by a German veterinary university.” Wow! Today a few notes on this intriguing bit of news. Thank you, canines! Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.


1. “Eight dogs from Germany’s armed forces were trained for only a week and were able to accurately identify the virus with a 94% success rate, according to a pilot project led by the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover. Researchers challenged the dogs to sniff out Covid-19 in the saliva of more than 1,000 healthy and infected people.”

2. “We think that this works because the metabolic processes in the body of a diseased patient are completely changed,” Maren von Koeckritz-Blickwede, a professor at the university, said in a YouTube video about the project. “We think that the dogs are able to detect a specific smell.”

3. “Dogs, which have a sense of smell around 1,000 times more sensitive than humans, could be deployed to detect infections at places such as airports, border crossings and sporting events with the proper training, according to the researchers. The study was conducted jointly with the German armed forces, the Hannover Medical School and the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf.”

HURDLES FACING THE USE OF COVID SNIFFERS: information, planning, standards

1. “But some experts in public health and in training scent dogs say that more information and planning are needed to be certain they are accurate in real life situations.”

2. “There are no national standards” for scent dogs, according to Cynthia M. Otto, director of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine and one of the authors of a new paper on scent dog use in COVID detection.”

3. “And although private groups certify drug-sniffing and bomb and rescue dogs, similar programs for medical detection do not exist, according to the new paper in the journal of Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness.”

MORE COMPLICATED THAN BOMB AND DRUG DETECTION: the chemical mystery and the diversity challenge — but so far better than PCR!!!!

1. “Quality control is a first step, and a large one. Medical scent detection is more complicated than drug or bomb detection, Otto said. A dog working an airport for drugs or explosive detection has a consistent context and a fairly straightforward target odor.”

2. “In COVID detection, researches know that the dogs can distinguish an infected person’s sweat or urine. But they don’t know what chemicals the dog is identifying.”

3. “Because human scents vary, medical detection dogs have to be trained on different people. ‘We have all the ethnicities and ages and diets and all of these things that make human smell,” Otto said.

NB: “Any positive cases of COVID infection that the dogs detect are usually confirmed with what is now the gold standard for confirming the presence of the coronavirus, a PCR test. A review of research published last week concluded, however, that dogs performed better than the test.”

CONCLUSION — The Real World versus the Lab, Dog Scarcity, the Economics

1. Sniffing urine or sweat samples is one thing, Sniffing people in a line is another.

2. There has been a shortage of dogs for bomb detection for years.

3. “Well trained dogs are also costly and require paid, well-trained human handlers… dogs may cost $10,000 and scent training per dog is $16,000.”

NB: Total cost for dogs and handlers is estimated to be “$33,000 for explosives detection and $46,000 for bomb detection.”


PDF with headlines — Google Drive


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John Muresianu

Passionate about education, thinking citizenship, art, and passing bits on of wisdom of a long lifetime.