Everyone knows that the elderly, especially those who are ill or in care homes, are most at risk from Covid-19. The government is busy conducting an expensive smartphone based app, track & trace experiment on the Isle of Wight – and that’s great for the general population. But maybe the best way to help older, vulnerable residents in care homes, or public places where there is high risk of vulnerable people contracting Covid-19, would be a more old school approach?
York-based insurance company, The Insurance Emporium, have worked alongside the pioneering Medical Detection Dogs charity for several years as their dog insurance provider. These amazing sniffer dogs, trained by experts to detect cancers and other diseases as well as supporting people with life-threatening health conditions like diabetes, are now being trained up to detect COVID-19.
Experts at Medical Detection Dogs believe their dogs can be trained up to potentially detect coronavirus symptoms in as little as six to eight weeks and the charity is currently working with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and Durham University to try to achieve this.
The Insurance Emporium asked Medical Detection Dogs some questions about the work going on behind the scenes and this is how they replied:
- What is Medical Detection Dogs’ plan of action and timescales for carrying out the research, especially given current lockdown?
Medical Detection Dogs: ‘We have a number of intensively pre-trained detector dogs that could be made ready in 6- 8 weeks. Together with our partners LSHTM and Durham University, we have started preparations to intensively train dogs so they could be ready to help provide a rapid, non-invasive diagnosis towards the tail end of the epidemic, and approached government about how dogs can play a role in the fight against the disease. The initial phase will see 6 Bio Detection Dogs undergo intensive training.’
- How do you select dogs for this task?
Medical Detection Dogs: ‘Those that will be assessed to take part in this project will show characteristics that we know make great Bio Detection Dogs, such as a desire to use their nose, willingness to learn, eagerness to please and a need to be kept busy.’
- Who do these dogs live with normally, do they live a normal family life when not doing the detection work – could you give us an insight into the human/canine story?
Medical Detection Dogs: ‘We have a strict no kennel policy and all our dogs live with socialisers and fosterers in loving, family homes. We always say it is a bit like the school run at MDD – the dogs get dropped off in the morning and picked up later on. During the day they do a few short shifts in the training room and in between that they can be found playing or lounging with other dogs, being walked by our volunteer dog walkers or running around the paddock with their trainers.
A lot of our dogs live in and around the Buckinghamshire area for obvious reasons – MDD is based in Great Horwood, Milton Keynes – but we do have some slightly further afield. We are always looking for more fosterers, socialisers and holiday cover. For details of how to volunteer, please see our website at https://www.medicaldetectiondogs.org.uk/volunteer/. Donations to support the work of Medical Detection Dogs can also be made via our website by following this link: https://www.medicaldetectiondogs.org.uk/giving/’
Chief Executive Officer Francis Martin said:
“We are proud to be dog insurance providers for the Medical Detection Dogs charity. Over the years we have seen how their incredible dogs have saved lives through bio-medical detection as well as enabling people with life-threatening conditions to live more normal lives through their Assistance Dog work. We know this charity is amazing already of course, but the potential to detect COVID-19 symptoms gives this charity’s work a whole new dimension and this truly touches our hearts.”