Medical Detection Dogs: The charity behind our Lifeline 2021 campaign

Medical Detection Dogs
Ready for a new challenge? (Picture: Getty)
We are delighted to launch’s annual charity campaign: Lifeline 2021 . This year, through two sponsored walks, we will raise vital funds for Medical Detection Dogs (MDD), a charity organisation that helps trains dogs to sniff out serious diseases such as cancer , Type 1 diabetes , Parkinson’s and coronavirus.

But we need your help.

Read on to find out more about the charity’s brilliant work, and how you can take part in our ‘Woof and Walk for MDD’ challenge.

What is’s Lifeline campaign and how can you get involved?

For the next five months – March until July – as part of our annual Lifeline charity fundraising initiative, we’ll be raising money for Medical Detection Dogs. This year’s Lifeline challenge is called, Woof and Walk for MDD, which allows participants to choose between a sponsored 26-mile trek, or a 10k route for those who want to bring their own dogs and families.

Here are the key details:


The trek will take place on Saturday, June 19, meaning you have four months to sign up, train and fundraise.


Taking place in the Oxfordshire village of Goring, Oxfordshire, experienced trek organisers Charity Challenge have come up with two bespoke routes for our challenge, each starting and finishing in the same place (exact location will be confirmed one month before the event). While both the 10k and 42km will take you through glorious countryside and along parts of the Thames footpath, our marathon distance hike will also explore the spectacular national trail, The Ridgeway.

Make your own pill pockets when you need to feed your dog some medicine.

Alexandra Burke with her dog
Alexandra Burke is among the famous faces taking part in the walk


The registration fee is£35 for all adults, with free entry for kids (and any furry friends).

Fundraising target

The minimum fundraising amount is £300 per person if you are doing the Marathon-distance.

If you are doing the 10k, you must raise this total per family.

You’ll need to raise 80% of that amount (£240) eight weeks before the challenge and the remainder within four weeks of completion.

How do I sign up?

Sign up to the 10k Woof and Walk for MDD here.

If you want to go one step further and take part in the marathon distance hike, you can sign up for that here.

There is a limit of 100 places per walk, so if you want to get involved, act fast.

Because the 42km trek is a marathon distance, be aware that it will be challenging, and will require advance preparation and training.

But let’s face it – what else is there to do at the moment, but partake in a bit of state-permitted exercise?

And you’ll be in good hands: Alexandra Burke , TV’s Dr Christian Jessen , reality star Pete Wicks and presenter Debbie Flint have all signed up to take part in this year’s walk.
Chocolate Labrador in field of daisies at sunset
There will be cute pooches aplenty (Picture: Getty)
Thanks to your support, we raised £60,000 last year for the Hygiene Bank and we’re hoping this year can be even bigger and better.

If you have a hard time brushing your dog's teeth, squeeze some enzymatic doggie toothpaste onto a Nylabone or rope toy and let your pooch go to town on it.

What is Medical Detection Dogs – what does the charity do?

MDD trains dogs to detect the odour of human diseases, such as cancer, Parkinson’s disease and other bacterial infections.

These bio detection dogs can essentially sniff out serious diseases in their early stages, meaning patients can get diagnosed and treated quickly.

Through this technique, the charity’s aim is to develop faster, more efficient and less invasive diagnostics.

The charity also trains Medical Alert Assistance Dogs, who go on to live with people who have life-threatening conditions such as Type 1 diabetes and severe allergies, so they’re always around to let them know if their health is at risk, or if their condition has changed.
So far, the charity has placed around 150 Medical Alert Assistance Dogs, all of whom live with people diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, Addison’s, severe nut allergies and Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS).
Callie has perfected the subtle headtilt and will soon perfect her future career as a Medical Detection Dog too.Her ever-ready #Spaniel nose will learn to sniff a disease quickly, early and non-invasively and aid early diagnosis.— Medical Detection Dogs (@MedDetectDogs)

How can dogs detect diseases?

MDD’s Bio Detection Dogs are trained to find the odour of specific diseases in people’s personal odour, such as in their sweat, breath or urine. The dogs can detect even the smallest change in these odours: minute changes that are triggered by these diseases.

INTERESTING FACT ABOUT YOUR PET: INTERESTING FACT ABOUT YOUR PET: Stories abound of owners whose dogs kept sniffing or licking a mole or lump on their body so they got it checked out, discovering it was cancerous. The anecdotal evidence was later backed up by scientific studies. Dogs are so good at this that some of them are trained to detect cancer, in as little as three hours.

These subtle changes would otherwise, largely, go unobserved, so picking them up early means that people can be directed to treatment faster.

The dogs are trained, and come from a range of places – they may be donated by members of the public, breeders, other assistance dog charities and rescue centres.

Working Cocker Spaniel
Many of MDD’s dogs are working spaniels (Picture: Getty)

The charity has a no-kennel policy so the dogs all live in homes as part of a caring family, either with a volunteer or member of staff.

Similar to humans working a 9-5, the dogs are dropped off in the morning and picked up in the evening.

Meanwhile, Medical Alert Assistant Dogs are placed with their owners, so they can pick up any changes in their condition, at any hour.

They too are trained using scent and breath samples taken from their owner when they experience an episode: the dogs can then identify this unique odour, should it happen again.

What breeds of dogs can be trained up as bio detection dogs?

All dogs and breeds have the capability to detect cancer, other diseases and crisis situations in humans. However, the charity works with dogs with a high hunt drive and work with a mixture of Labradors, working spaniels and other breeds.

Make your own hammock-style car seat cover. The hammock style keeps the dog from getting hurt if he or she falls during any sudden stops or starts. Get the pattern here.

It is important the dogs are good with humans, and that they have a good sense of smell and love searching and hunting for toys.

Training a dog is no mean feat, however, and it generally takes around 6-8 months to fully train them up.

The cost of training and placing a dog is around £29,000, with costs being covered by supporters, charitable trusts, foundations and members of the public.

Talking about the difference your support could make to the charity, Medical Detection Dogs founder, Dr Claire Guest says: ‘Everything we do costs money, so the Lifeline campaign will enable us to carry on our very vital work.

‘It will help us support people with life-threatening illnesses through our amazing assistance dogs and allow us to carry on working on our very important research projects.

‘We really want to continue making a difference and we know we can do that with your help.’

Follow Metro across our social channels, on , and Instagram.

The Fix

The daily lifestyle email from

Find out more