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Dogs Being Trained to Sniff Out Coronavirus in People

Dogs Beings Trained To Sniff Out Coronavirus
photo credit: http://abcnews.go.com

Dog have a long established history of being able to detect health conditions in people. There are service dogs that are trained to predict or recognize seizures in epileptics to assist in protection and alert. There are dogs that can sniff out cancers of the skin and and internal cancers that result in a change of smell in the urine or blood. There are even dogs that can sniff high or low blood glucose levels to alert diabetics. Is it possible that our canine companions with superhero olfactory senses can be trained to sniff out novel coronavirus?

The University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine is trying to find out just that with a new program to see if dogs can detect the current strain of the coronavirus, aka, COVID19. The program is currently training dogs to learn how to identify different smells, beginning with sniffing out an odor successfully to be rewarded with a treat. After a successful first training period, the dogs will then begin to use samples from patients who have tested both positive and negative for COVID-19.

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The program aims to identify if there an odor associated with a volatile organic compound associated with COVID-19 and see if the dogs can sniff out the difference. The hope is that the doctors at Penn can successfully then train the dogs to help sniff out the COVID-19 in infected people.

Per the program’s director, Dr. Cynthia Otto, if testing and training is successful, it would not be a replacement for standard COVID-19 testing. She views it as ancillary and complementary, such in scenarios like having employees walk by the dogs as they enter the workplace and the dog would alert if someone was positive.

Primary source for the article was https://abcnews.go.com/

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and highly regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms. He is the author of The Man In The White Coat: A Veterinarian’s Tail Of Love. In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a globally recognized expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport.  He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , general partner of Grant Animal Clinic, and runs the successful veterinary/animal health  blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care.  Dr. Welton fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.

Why Are Veterinary Clinics So Unusually Busy During The Coronavirus Pandemic?

Busy COVID-19 Curbside Veterinary Service

While many small businesses are experiencing major slow downs in business during the coronavirus pandemic, the trend in veterinary clinics across the nation is opposite. Across the country, my clinics included, are experiencing record caseloads with many veterinary clinics booked out days to weeks in advance and operating well beyond capacity. It is not unusual to hear about 24 hour emergency veterinary hospitals to have wait times exceeding 4 plus hours. What it is about the COVID-19 era that is causing so many pets requiring veterinary clinic visits?

Pet Owners Noticing More

Dogs and cats by their nature hide signs of illness and pain. Thus in the flow of many pet owners’ busy lives, subtle signs that something may be wrong with the health of family pets commonly go unnoticed. It often takes more obvious signs like limping in pain, diarrhea, vomiting, and prolonged anorexia to prompt busy pet owners to schedule a veterinary visit.

With many states having had shelter in place rules and many people still working from home, people are simply paying more attention to their pets and picking up on subtle signs of disease such as drinking more water than usual, eating less, eating more, urinating more frequently, mild limping, etc. Often, even subtle signs such as these are the consequent of series underlying disease and owners picking up on them have enabled more frequent early disease detection.

The Man In The White Coat: A Veterinarian's Tail Of Love
Read Dr. Roger’s New Book!

Spike In Pet Fostering, Adoptions

The coronavirus pandemic had nudged many to take the plunge to adopt a new pet they’d been thinking about getting given the unusual opportunity to be at home to acclimate the pet. Out of shear boredom and wishing to use their time productively, many animal enthusiasts found a unique COVID-19 induced capacity to take on rescue fosters. Whether adopted or fostered, these pets require care and represent a significant proportion of new pet veterinary clinic visits.

COVID-19 Forced Clinic Shutdowns

Veterinary clinics with COVID-19 positive staff members sometimes are required to shutdown causing a spike in requested veterinary visits at neighboring clinics. Within a 5 mile radius of the busiest of my two clinics, 3 large veterinary clinics have been forced to closed for weeks at various times over the past few months. Each time this has occurred we have experienced dramatic spike in case loads.

Please Be Patient!

Most of us are doing our very best to accommodate sick and injured patients. Between the surge in visits and having to operate with curbside service with only staff and patients allowed in the building, there are inevitable delays. We ask for your patience and understanding as we do everything in our power to serve you and your pets.

Please also show some empathy to the technicians and doctors running in and out of the building sweating in their PPE, logging more steps than most peoples’ epic workouts. Also, please do not complain that you cannot come in with your pet! We are doing what we are required to do by our respective state veterinary medical associations to remain open!

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and highly regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms. He is the author of The Man In The White Coat: A Veterinarian’s Tail Of Love. In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a globally recognized expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport.  He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , general partner of Grant Animal Clinic, and runs the successful veterinary/animal health  blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care.  Dr. Welton fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game. 

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