60-Second Science

Fat-Fed Fidos Foil Fiends First

Detection dogs fed diets high in fat were better at sniffing out explosives and contraband than dogs given their regular food. Amy Kraft reports

Specially trained dogs have long been used to sniff out drugs, dangerous chemicals and explosives. But now researchers have discovered a way to enhance a detection dog's schnoz: change its diet.

For 18 months researchers rotated 17 trained detection dogs through three different diets: high protein, regular adult dog food, and regular adult dog food with corn oil. When the dogs feasted on the food with the high fat content, the regular dog food with corn oil, they performed better in exercise and detection tests. The dogs performed just as well on the high protein diet as on their standard fare, apparently a function of the amount of fat in the food rather than anything related to the protein content.

What’s fat’s magic? The researchers say that dogs fed high fat diets are less fatigued after exercise, which reduces panting and sensitizes sniffing. 

The research was funded by the Department of Justice and presented at the recent Companion Animal Nutrition Summit in Atlanta.

The findings could change how detection dogs are fed to turn the merely star smellers into super sniffers.

—Amy Kraft

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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