State funds $1 million projects to use CWD sniffing dogs

Three new research projects will be receiving a total of one million dollars to research chronic wasting disease (CWD) in Pennsylvania. The goal is to stop or at least slow down the spread of CWD in the state.

One of the 3 projects has raised some eyebrows as they try to use dogs to sniff out the CWD. The project will be led by Cynthea Otto, professor, and director of Penn’s School of Veterinary Working Dog Center. They will receive $242,246 to teach dogs to sniff CWD in deer feces.

Since there is no test for CWD in living deer the dogs would be able to find areas where the disease is prevalent but not yet known. Finding these areas earlier would prove critical to implementing regulations in those areas to slow down the spread of this disease.

Some states have seen success in managing the disease while others have grown frustrated by the lack of results. in 2012 CWD made its first appearance in Pennsylvania. The area they first discovered it was called disease management area 1 (DMA1). Through aggressive management and early detection of the disease, DMA1 became CWD free. The disease has popped up in other areas of the state since with little success at eliminating it.

Early detection of the disease is the most important factor in slowing the spread of this disease. While the idea of CWD sniffing dogs seems silly on the surface, it may prove to be very effective.

The other two projects are working on a test for living deer. A grant of $561,000 will go to a project led by the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine biochemistry professor Anna Kashina, while $196,754 will go to a project by Davin Henderson, a protein chemist and founder of CWD Evolution LLC.

“Scientists have made significant progress toward better understanding Chronic Wasting Disease in isolating genes associated with the disease,” explained Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding.

“These projects show potential to build on that progress by speeding diagnosis, helping scientists better understand how CWD progresses and ultimately, learn how to keep it from spreading.”