Dogs' ability to detect an inflammatory immune response in cattle via olfaction


Introduction: Canine olfaction is a potential means for detection of respiratory disease in beef cattle. In a prior study, two dogs were trained to discriminate between nasal swabs from healthy cattle and cattle that developed Bovine Respiratory Disease. Dogs had some ability to identify samples from BRD-affected cattle, but results were ambiguous. The purpose of this study was to evaluate more dogs using better-controlled training and testing procedures. Methods: Nasal and saliva swabs were collected from 96 cattle before and after administering a vaccine to induce an inflammatory immune response. Samples were stored at −80°C for up to 11 months before use, and samples from animals with an elevated body temperature at baseline were omitted. An automated olfactometer apparatus was constructed to improve blinding procedures and reduce opportunities for odor contamination. Four dogs were trained to distinguish between swabs from healthy and sickness-model cattle, including the two dogs from the previous study (“Runnels” and “Cheaps”) and two inexperienced dogs (“Molokai” and “Amy”). During a seven-month training period, dogs were exposed to samples from 28 animals. Dogs were tested on 59 sets of unfamiliar samples. Results: Performance varied among dogs (χ2 = 10.48, p = 0.02). Molokai's performance was above chance (0.73 ± 0.06, p = 0.0006), while Amy (0.44 ± 0.06, p = 0.43), Cheaps (0.53 ± 0.07, p = 0.79), and Runnels (0.56 ± 0.06, p = 0.43) did not respond correctly at a rate different from chance. Accuracy did not differ between nasal swabs (0.63 ± 0.08) and saliva swabs (0.53 ± 0.08, χ2 = 0.81, p = 0.37). Discussion: The results of this study indicate that canine olfaction may be an effective means of detecting illness in beef cattle. However, individual dogs' aptitude for this detection task varies.


Copyright © 2024 Juge, Hall, Richeson, Cooke and Daigle. cc-by


animal health, bovine, canine, cattle, disease detection, olfaction, working dog


Juge, A.E., Hall, N.J., Richeson, J.T., Cooke, R.F., & Daigle, C.L.. 2024. Dogs' ability to detect an inflammatory immune response in cattle via olfaction. Frontiers in Veterinary Science, 11.