Oct. 21, 2022

Episode 1 - Scent Dogs Detect SARS-CoV-2

Episode 1 - Scent Dogs Detect SARS-CoV-2

The extraordinary olfactory sense of canines combined with the possibility to learn by operant conditioning enables dogs for their use in medical detection in a wide range of applications. Research on the ability of medical detection dogs for the identification of individuals with infectious or non-infectious diseases has been promising, but compared to the well-established and-accepted use of sniffer dogs by the police, army and customs for substances such as money, explosives, or drugs, the deployment of medical detection dogs is still in its infancy. There are several factors to be considered for standardization before the deployment of canine scent detection dogs. Individual odours in disease consist of different volatile organic molecules that differ in magnitude, volatility and concentration. Olfaction can be influenced by various parameters like genetics, environmental conditions, age, hydration, nutrition, microbiome, conditioning, training, management factors, diseases and pharmaceuticals. In this episode Prof. Holger Volk discusses his experience with training scent dogs to detect SARS-CoV-2 in patients/

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If you want to know more about the initial study that was done in 2020 please go to:

Scent dog identification of samples from COVID-19 patients - a pilot study

In diagnostics specificity (true negative rate) refers to the probability of a negative test, conditioned on truly being negative. In this story here this means that the sent dogs trained to smell SARS-CoV-2 are not getting confused by other respiratory infections. The work is described here:

Discrimination of SARS-CoV-2 Infections From Other Viral Respiratory Infections by Scent Detection Dogs


Prof. Volk mentions that different body fluids can be used. Please go here for more information:

Scent dog identification of SARS-CoV-2 infections in different body fluids


The latest work looking at the detection of long COVID by dogs is listed here:

Detection of Post-COVID-19 Patients Using Medical Scent Detection Dogs-A Pilot Study

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Prof. Holger A. Volk, Dip ECVN, PhD, PGCAP, FHEA, MRCVSProfile Photo

Prof. Holger A. Volk, Dip ECVN, PhD, PGCAP, FHEA, MRCVS

veterinary Neurologist

Prof. Holger Volk is the Department Chair and Clinical Director of the Small Animal Clinic of the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Honorary Senior lecturer at University College London, and Honorary Professor at the Royal Veterinary College. He graduated from the Veterinary School of Hanover in 2001 and did a PhD in Neuropharmacology studying basic mechanisms of drug-resistant epilepsy. He then completed his specialist clinical education doing an internship and a residency in Neurology and Neurosurgery at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC). He stayed on at the RVC as faculty and in his time at the RVC did hold multiple leadership roles (Head of Neurology, Clinical Director and Head of Department for Clinical Science and Services). In January 2019, he returned to his Alma Mater to fulfil his current role. Holger is internationally known for his work in the field of epilepsy, neuropathic pain/Chiari-like malformation/syringomyelia, cognition and recently SARS-CoV-2 medical detection dogs. Holger has been leading the International Veterinary Epilepsy Task Force and was a co-chair of the recent published ACVIM consensus statement about medical treatment of epilepsy. He has published multiple book chapters and books, >240 articles, >200 conference abstracts, and is a frequent flyer on the international conference circuit, having won multiple awards for teaching and his research.