When your dog peers under the kitchen stove growling for hours, you can be pretty sure there’s some kind of varmint under there. If you’re lucky, your pet comes by these pest-hunting skills naturally, and somehow, the unwelcome critter will disappear.
Other dogs, however, are specially trained to hone their hunting skills on vermin of the six-legged sort. If dogs can be trained to sniff out bombs, drugs and even cancer, why not termites and bedbugs, right?
Seeing Through Walls
It’s estimated that hungry termites are responsible for $1 to $7 billion worth of damage in the United States each year, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Because termites are usually tucked behind Sheetrock and plaster, they can’t always be detected until they’ve wreaked a tremendous amount of damage.
Termite dogs to the rescue! These pups can be trained to detect the methane emitted by termites as they digest wood. So they’re often able to identify an infestation well before a human inspector can. In studies, trained dogs were able to detect groups of 40 termites or more with about 95 percent accuracy. If that’s not impressive enough, they could even discriminate between live termites and wood that had been previously damaged by termites as well as cockroaches and ants.
When matched against electronic detection devices, the dogs won by a long shot with an average of 98 percent accuracy.
What Lurks Under the Covers
Bedbugs are the bane of hotels, apartments, dorms, cruise ships and other places that offer temporary housing. While they don’t transmit disease, they do feed on people and animals while they sleep, which can cause itching, inflammation and general revulsion. In rare cases, people can have an allergic reaction when bedbugs bite.
Unfortunately, bedbugs are not only tiny and nocturnal, but they can be experts at hiding inside mattress seams, behind baseboard cracks and crevices and even under light-switch covers. Thankfully, dogs can be trained to sniff out these tiny invaders, too.
In studies, trained dogs were able to sniff out live bedbugs, shed bug skin and even bedbug pheromones with 100% accuracy. However, several pest control companies have been reported for using “trained” dogs to find bedbugs that weren’t, in fact, there when other companies checked the premises. So, if you hire a company with trained bug-sniffing dogs, make sure to ask for the dog’s credentials. Honest companies will be happy to show you proof of training.
That way, you don’t get bit twice.
The information in this blog has been developed with our veterinarian and is designed to help educate pet parents. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health or nutrition, please talk with your veterinarian.