Contagious Conversations: COVID-19 Detection Dog Program


Man’s best friend is changing the world. Dogs are known for a sense of smell so acute they have the ability to detect cancer, monitor diabetes and screen for an array of infectious diseases. But did you know that dogs are also able to screen individuals for COVID-19 infections? For the latest episode of our Contagious Conversations podcast, I was pleased to speak with two experts who are working on a COVID-19 Detection Dog Program.

Carol Edwards began her career in dog obedience training at the age of 13 and has since immersed herself in the behavioral science of dog training. In 2010, Edwards drew on her extensive experience training service dogs to detect hypoglycemic episodes to launch Early Alert Canines (EAC), an independent nonprofit organization that helps place medical alert service dogs with insulin-dependent diabetics, providing life-changing care and companionship.

Joining Edwards in the podcast is Dr. Carol Glaser, the assistant deputy director in the Office of the State Public Health Laboratory Director and medical officer for Infectious Disease Laboratories at the California Department of Public Health. In our discussion, Glaser spoke about the partnership that came together to make this project a reality and its promise.

Beginning in September 2021, the CDC Foundation partnered with the Association of Public Health Laboratories, EAC and the California Department of Public Health to acquire and train two dogs to detect COVID-19 infections in congregate settings. Scarlett and Rizzo, the COVID-19 detection dogs, were trained by EAC to smell and detect COVID-19 infection and are already applying their skills in school settings. When a person is positive for COVID-19, they produce unique volatile organic compounds that the dogs are trained to detect using socks worn by previously tested COVID-19 infected individuals. Learn more about this program and other potential uses for using dogs in public health protection.

As the project explores ways to use the dogs in even larger congregate settings, our partners will continue to provide schools with a unique approach to keeping their students, faculty and staff safe from COVID-19.

As a dog lover, I really enjoyed this interview. I want to thank both of our guests for sharing their perspectives and experiences, and I encourage everyone to listen to this episode and learn more about this impactful and unique program.

Photo of Claire Stinson
Claire Stinson is a communications officer for the CDC Foundation.