A recent study conducted by researchers at the Florida International University has found that dogs are capable of detecting laurel wilt, a vascular disease caused by the fungus Raffaelea lauricola that affects and kills more than 300 million avocado trees in US.
It should be noted that Raffaelea lauricola is a dreaded pathogen which is untreatable and it also spreads quickly to other surrounding trees. However, early detection of the disease could help experts to prevent the widespread of the pathogen.
The research paper named 'An Evaluation of Scent-discriminating Canines for Rapid Response to Agricultural Diseases' published in the latest edition of HortTechnology, has revealed that dogs can sniff out the disease in a very early stage, much before the symptoms of the disease becomes visible.
The study report also showed that dogs can sniff out laurel wilt even in extremely harsh environments like intense heat and humidity. During the research, 229 trials were performed, and only 12 of those yielded false alerts.
"It is the best 'technology' so far that can detect a diseased tree before external symptoms are visible. The old saying that 'dogs are man's best friend' reaches far beyond a personal bond with their handler and trainer. It is depicted in their excitement every day as they deploy to the groves. Man's best friend may even help save an industry," said DeEtta Mills, co-author of the study as quoted in the American Society for Horticultural Science website.
This is not the first time that the impeccable sniffing ability of dogs is being scientifically proven. A recent study has proven that dogs can smell out cancer even when it is in its initial stages of development. In the human body, cancerous cells release different metabolic waste products than healthy cells in the human body, and this difference in smell could be easily detected by dogs. Several studies have confirmed that dogs can identify skin cancer (melanoma) by simply sniffing the skin lesions. They can also spot prostate cancer by sniffing the urine.