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Sit, Stay, Sniff: New Device Could Train Dogs to Detect Disease in Humans

A diabetic man collapses in a New York City hotel room. But the guide dog he’s fostering licks and nudges him repeatedly, keeping him from passing out. Finally, the dog rouses him enough so he can inject himself with glucose and recover.

It was that experience, in 2000, that led the man, forensic scientist Mark Ruefenacht, to found Dogs for Diabetics (D4D) in the San Francisco Bay area four years later.

These days, D4D-trained dogs help diabetics get assistance or emergency supplies when they need it, detecting drops and spikes in blood sugar before their human companions. It’s all thanks to their keen sense of smell. “We’ve trained over 200 dogs now for diabetes, and I’ve also worked with a half-dozen or so organizations around the world to help them start diabetes programs,” Ruefenacht says.

Now, driven by the pandemic, the organization is expanding its work to include sniffing out other illnesses, including COVID-19. Experts say it just might work, especially with the help of a high-tech ally.

Article for Dell Perspectives.