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Biomedical Scent Detection Dogs: Would They Pass as a Health Technology?

By Mirkka Koivusalo, Catherine Reeve

Category Journal Articles

Biomedical scent detection dogs identify the scent profiles of diseases, such as cancer, diabetes or pathogenic micro-organisms.  What the field of biomedical scent detection has been lacking, however, is the assessment of the method from the point of view of a health technology. All health technologies undergo a thorough evaluation of safety, clinical effectiveness and costs, as well as ethical, social, organizational and legal evaluations in some cases. Passing these regulatory controls is a pre-requisite before a technology is approved for use in decision-making about patient outcomes. Biomedical scent detection has a lot of attractive qualities, such as the sensitivity and specificity of the dogs’ noses, safety and relative cost-effectiveness. But the method also has various challenges, in particular regarding its clinical effectiveness. The most pertinent issues to address before the dogs would pass as a health technology are standardization the training techniques, both intra- and inter-dog reproducibility, and generalization of the detection task to early stages of disease progression. We suggest setting realistic goals in terms of what the dogs can and cannot do and a collaborative approach between clinicians and animal psychophysicists.


Marcy Wilhelm-South

Purdue University

Date 2018
Publication Title Pet Behavior Science
Volume 6
Pages 7
ISBN/ISSN 2445-2874
DOI 10.21071/pbs.v0i6.10785
Language English
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal roles
  2. Assessment
  3. Biomedical research
  4. Canine scent detection
  5. Dogs
  6. Health
  7. Mammals
  8. open access
  9. technology
  10. training
  11. Working animals
  1. open access