Scent-trained dogs can detect chronic wasting disease

Canines could help manage the spread of a deadly prion disease

Dogs’ sensitive noses are diving into deer dung to detect a deadly prion disease. A new study published in Prion has found that scent detection dogs can distinguish between deer infected with chronic wasting disease (CWD) and healthy deer by sniffing their droppings. Researchers first taught Labrador retrievers to detect samples infected with the disease in the laboratory, then brought them into the field. The dogs detected eight out of 11 CWD-laced feces samples placed in the field. The researchers hope that scent detection dogs can help wildlife workers manage the spread of the deadly diseases. “Given the amount of time that we trained these dogs and the novel environment, not to mention the fact that these are pet dogs and not trained search dogs, our results are promising,” said Amritha Mallikarjun, a postdoctoral researcher in the University of Pennsylvania’s Working Dog Center and lead author of the study. “As we move forward and work with dogs that are specifically trained to search in a field setting and devote their entire lives to detecting this odor, they are going to do an even better job.”

Read more at Penn Today.

Header Image: Jari, an 8-year-old Finnish spitz, sniffs a sample taken from a deer with chronic wasting disease. Credit: Shelby Wise/Wise K9 Photography