Coronavirus-sniffing dogs dispatched at Dubai Airport

Dubai International Airport this week started using police dogs for on-airport rapid Covid-19 testing, which reportedly can produce results in minutes with 92%, reports SFGate.

Typically in the United Arab Emirates, all arriving passengers must submit to Covid-19 testing prior to their trips and show negative results to be admitted into the country.

Earlier reports of using dogs to sniff out the coronavirus proved that the concept could work in test environments. Recently, a study showed that dogs accurately identify the virus with a 94% success rate. However this appears to be one of the first instances of it being put to use as a real-world solution. Dogs have also been able to sniff out several other diseases that can affect body odor such as cancer or malaria.

Dogs used to detect COVID-19 in arriving passengers at Dubai International Airport (Photo: WAM/SFGate)

When passengers arrive in Dubai, they pass through a special testing area where samples of their body odor are taken. A video posted on SFGate showed that these samples appear to be taken from the armpits, a much less invasive procedure than nasal probing. While the passenger waits a few minutes, the sample goes to another room where the dog sniffs it through a funnel-like contraption. If the dog detects Covid-19, the passenger is then directed to take the nasal PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test.

Currently, UAE authorities are using the canine testing as an extra layer of protection — all arriving passengers must now provide a negative PCR test certificate before boarding flights.

While the dogs are only deployed in the UAE now, the concept could spread. The sniffing dogs spell good new for travelers since getting results from labs can take hours or even days in some cases.

A dog sniffing through a funnel-like contraption (Photo: WAM/SFGate)


Since the pandemic began, dogs have been trained to see if they can detect people who may be infected with the coronavirus.

Last month, it was reported that police in Chile were training dogs to detect people that may be infected with the novel coronavirus by sniffing their sweat.

A recent separate study by University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover found that dogs with several days of training are capable of identifying people infected with Covid-19 with a 94% success rate.

Meanwhile, Medical Detection Dogs, a British charity set up in 2008 to harness dogs’ sharp sense of smell to detect human diseases, also started training canines to detect Covid-19 in late March. In April, a prized sniffer dog went through trials in London to see if she can sniff out the coronavirus. 

The abundance of Covid-19 sniffing tests and training stories show just how important dogs are in the fight against the pandemic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *