Sleep and Breathing

, Volume 23, Issue 1, pp 281–285 | Cite as

A detection dog for obstructive sleep apnea

  • Anni Koskinen
  • Adel Bachour
  • Jenni Vaarno
  • Heli Koskinen
  • Sari Rantanen
  • Leif Bäck
  • Tuomas KlockarsEmail author
Sleep Breathing Physiology and Disorders • Short Communication



We sought to assess whether a dog can be trained to distinguish obstructive sleep apnea patients from healthy controls based on the olfactory detection of urine.


Urine samples were collected from 23 adult male obstructive sleep apnea patients and from 20 voluntary adult male volunteers. Three dogs were trained through reinforced operant conditioning.


Two of the three dogs correctly detected two thirds of obstructive sleep apnea patients (p < 0.000194 and p < 0.000003, respectively).


We found that dogs can be trained to distinguish obstructive sleep apnea patients from healthy controls based on the smell of urine. Potentially, dogs could be utilized to identify novel biomarkers or possibly screen for obstructive sleep apnea.


Canine Diagnostics Olfactory detection Screening 



This study was financially supported by grants from the Finska Läkaresällskapet and the Päivikki and Sakari Sohlberg Foundation. The sponsors had no role in the design or conduct of this research.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were carried out in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee (Helsinki University Hospital, 168/13/03/00/16) and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in this study.

Animal experiments, ethical approval

All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. All procedures performed in studies involving animals were carried out in accordance with the ethical standards of the institution or practice at which the studies were conducted.


  1. 1.
    Craven BA, Paterson EG, Settles GS (2010) The fluid dynamics of canine olfaction: unique nasal airflow patterns as an explanation of macrosmia. J R Soc Interface 7:933–943CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Welch JB (1990) A detector dog for screwworms (diptera: Calliphoridae). J Econ Entomol 83:1932–1934CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Pfiester M, Koehler PG, Pereira RM (2008) Ability of bed bug-detecting canines to locate live bed bugs and viable bed bug eggs. J Econ Entomol 101:1389–1396CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Lin HM, Chi WL, Lin CC, Tseng YC, Chen WT, Kung YL, Lien YY, Chen YY (2011) Fire ant-detecting canines: a complementary method in detecting red imported fire ants. J Econ Entomol 104:225–231CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Alasaad S, Permunian R, Gakuya F, Mutinda M, Soriguer RC, Rossi L (2012) Sarcoptic-mange detector dogs used to identify infected animals during outbreaks in wildlife. BMC Vet Res 8:110CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Fischer-Tenhagen C, Tenhagen BA, Heuwieser W (2013) Short communication: ability of dogs to detect cows in estrus from sniffing saliva samples. J Dairy Sci 96:1081–1084CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Turner C (2016) Techniques and issues in breath and clinical sample headspace analysis for disease diagnosis. Bioanalysis 8:677–690CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Hardin DS, Anderson W, Cattet J (2015) Dogs can be successfully trained to alert to hypoglycemia samples from patients with type 1 diabetes. Diabetes Ther 6:509–517CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Dehlinger K, Tarnowski K, House JL et al (2013) Can trained dogs detect a hypoglycemic scent in patients with type 1 diabetes? Diabetes Care 36:98–99CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Pickel D, Manucy G, Walker D, Hall S, Walker J (2004) Evidence for canine olfactory detection of melanoma. Appl Anim Behav Sci 89:107–116CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Willis CM, Britton LE, Swindells MA, Jones EM, Kemp AE, Muirhead NL, Gul A, Matin RN, Knutsson L, Ali M (2016) Invasive melanoma in vivo can be distinguished from basal cell carcinoma, benign naevi and healthy skin by canine olfaction: a proof-of-principle study of differential volatile organic compound emission. Br J Dermatol 175:1020–1029CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Cornu JN, Cancel-Tassin G, Ondet V, Girardet C, Cussenot O (2011) Olfactory detection of prostate cancer by dogs sniffing urine: a step forward in early diagnosis. Eur Urol 59:197–201CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Taverna G, Tidu L, Grizzi F, Torri V, Mandressi A, Sardella P, la Torre G, Cocciolone G, Seveso M, Giusti G, Hurle R, Santoro A, Graziotti P (2015) Olfactory system of highly trained dogs detects prostate cancer in urine samples. J Urol 193:1382–1387CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Ehmann R, Boedeker E, Friedrich U, Sagert J, Dippon J, Friedel G, Walles T (2012) Canine scent detection in the diagnosis of lung cancer: revisiting a puzzling phenomenon. Eur Respir J 39(3):669–676CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Amundsen T, Sundstrom S, Buvik T, Gederaas OA, Haaverstad R (2014) Can dogs smell lung cancer? First study using exhaled breath and urine screening in unselected patients with suspected lung cancer. Acta Oncol 53:307–315CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Bomers MK, van Agtmael MA, Luik H, van Veen MC, Vandenbroucke-Grauls CM, Smulders YM (2012) Using a dog’s superior olfactory sensitivity to identify clostridium difficile in stools and patients: proof of principle study. BMJ 345:e7396CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Maurer M, McCulloch M, Willey AM, Hirsch W, Dewey D (2016) Detection of bacteriuria by canine olfaction. Open Forum Infect Dis 9:ofw051CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Koskinen A, Koskinen H, Back L, Saxen H, Klockars T (2017) A detection dog for paediatric urinary tract infection caused by Escherichia Coli. Infect Dis (Lond) 49:874–877CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Teodorescu M, Barnet JH, Hagen EW, Palta M, Young TB, Peppard PE (2015) Association between asthma and risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea. JAMA 313:156–164CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Jonas DE, Amick HR, Feltner C, Weber RP, Arvanitis M, Stine A, Lux L, Harris RP (2017) Screening for obstructive sleep apnea in adults: evidence report and systematic review for the US preventive services task force. JAMA 317:415–433CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Xu CY, Li DJ, Wu CL, Lou HJ, Jiang HW, Ding GQ (2015) Serum sLOX-1 levels are correlated with the presence and severity of obstructive sleep apnea. Genet Test Mol Biomarkers 19:272–276CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Stanke-Labesque F, Back M, Lefebvre B et al (2009) Increased urinary leukotriene E4 excretion in obstructive sleep apnea: effects of obesity and hypoxia. J Allergy Clin Immunol 124:364–370CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Jurado-Gamez B, Gomez-Chaparro JL, Munoz-Calero M et al (2012) Serum proteomic changes in adults with obstructive sleep apnoea. J Sleep Res 21:139–146CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Paik MJ, Kim DK, Nguyen DT, Lee G, Rhee CS, Yoon IY, Kim JW (2014) Correlation of daytime sleepiness with urine metabolites in patients with obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep Breath 18:517–523CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Preventive Services Task Force US, Bibbins-Domingo K, Grossman DC et al (2017) Screening for obstructive sleep apnea in adults: US preventive services task force recommendation statement. JAMA 317:407–414CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Polgár Z, Kinnunen M, Újváry D, Miklósi Á, Gácsi M (2016) A test of canine olfactory capacity: comparing various dog breeds and wolves in a natural detection task. PLoS One 11(5):e0154087CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Hall NJ, Glenn K, Smith DW, Wynne CD (2015) Performance of pugs, German shepherds, and greyhounds (Canis lupus familiaris) on an odor-discrimination task. J Comp Psychol 129(3):237–246CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Franklin KA, Lindberg E (2015) Obstructive sleep apnea is a common disorder in the population—a review on the epidemiology of sleep apnea. J Thorac Dis 7:1311–1322Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Otorhinolaryngology – Head and Neck SurgeryHelsinki University Hospital and University of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland
  2. 2.Sleep UnitHelsinki University Hospital and University of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland

Personalised recommendations