Canine smell, at the service of the fight against covid-19 in Latin America

Experts in finding drugs, weapons and corpses, police dogs in Latin America are now being trained in the urgent task of detecting the coronavirus.

Several plans are underway, such as that of the El Salvador police, who shared their experience during a training session with canine brigades from seven countries in the Mexican city of Xalapa (Veracruz, east), reports AFP.

The prodigious smell of dogs makes it possible for them to detect the virus, according to studies on which their training is based. 

The Salvadoran initiative uses artificial aromas similar to the sweat of an infected person.

"It is something delicate, because it seems that the covid-19 strains are changing a lot, but the already known ones have been synthesized, pseudo-aromas have been removed to train" the dogs, Wilber Alarcón, a specialist in the handling of agents, explained to AFP. canines of the anti-narcotics police of El Salvador.

Alarcón pointed out that in the preparation, dogs have shown great effectiveness in identifying compounds associated with the coronavirus. 

A squad of 15 animals is expected to begin patrolling airports, bus terminals and border posts in three months.

The "pseudo-scents" are also used for dogs to learn to detect drugs or explosives. In Mexico, where the authorities report some 80.000 disappeared between 2006 and 2020, some companies offer varieties such as “rotten, fresh or drowned corpse”.

All over the world  

Similar programs are carried out in other countries in the region such as Argentina, Chile, Colombia or Mexico. In Latin America and the Caribbean, the pandemic leaves 704.000 deaths and 22 million infections.

In the Mexican state of Sonora, authorities and private associations already have six operational dogs and are preparing about thirty, Juan Mancillas, leader of "Canines against covid", told AFP.

They have animals of the Golden Retriever, Labrador, German Shepherd and Belgian Shepherd breeds.

In Santiago, meanwhile, a first “certified” brigade of the Carabineros Canine Training School was deployed at the end of 2020. The objective is to take these squads to other places in Chile.

Meanwhile, the University of Buenos Aires will soon publish an investigation on the ability of dogs to detect the virus.

The use of dogs against covid-19 extends to a score of countries such as France, the United States or the Czech Republic, where the performance of the animals is tested with different types of samples that refer to varied areas of the disease.

It is a fast and effective tool to break chains of contagion, if one considers, for example, the time it takes for a laboratory test.

Citing an American study from a decade ago, Czech trainers explain that viruses modify human tissue and affect the patient's olfactory mark, which is detected by dogs.

The use of dogs against covid-19 extends to a score of countries such as France, the United States or the Czech Republic


The contribution of these animals in the pandemic further enriches their olfactory prestige, demonstrated in the detection of cancer and in the fight against crime.

The copies of the K9 Company, an elite force of the Veracruz government, hold dozens of certifications and championships, to the point that one of these dogs costs $ 24.000.

Their skills were put to the test during the K9 Multipurpose Dogs International Tactical Diploma in Xalapa, with low-level helicopter drops and drills to reduce armed criminals.

The capacity of these agents is such that in 2020 they detected a shipment of marijuana covered with thick layers of motor grease and coffee; in 2016 they located a person buried three meters deep, a national record. 

“They are infallible animals, they are never wrong. Humans are wrong ”, assures Daniel Valentín Ortega, instructor of the K9 Company. / AFP.