Polar bear pregnancy test- from a beagle!

iStock_000002835475XSmallDogs giving pregnancy test results that rival over-the-counter accuracy? Yes! Keepers at the Cincinnati Zoo are working with a beagle named Elvis to determine polar bear pregnancy. Veterinarians found that ultrasound and progesterone monitoring are unreliable in determining pregnancy in these animals, so they turned to another option- and Elvis is pretty accurate!

Trained dogs are becoming more and more popular for medical applications. In addition to detecting the onset of seizures and variations in blood sugar levels, dogs have also been used to detect cancer- see an earlier post about dogs detecting ovarian cancer here: http://blog.sciencekicksass.com/ovarian-cancer-could-you-be-saved-by-a-dog/

Elvis is showing about 97% accuracy in determining pregnancy after sniffing fecal samples (pretty close to over-the-counter pregnancy tests for humans)! Earlier this year, his trainers were using samples from previously pregnant polar bears, so it will be interesting to see if Elvis’s predictions regarding this year’s potential moms are correct.

This is the first time that sniffer dogs are being used in biomedical research in wildlife species, and the applications are interesting- could sniffer dogs help researchers determine the reproductive health of other animals, both in captivity and in the wild? Read about it here:

http://aboutzoos.info/zoos/news-zoos/762-special-trained-beagle-can-sniff-out-polar-bear-pregnancy