A four-legged superstar of B.C. Health Care world was on hand at the East Kootenay Regional Hospital this week, on the prowl for Clostridium difficile.
Angus, an English Springer Spaniel out of Vancouver, was the first dog in Canada to be certified to detect the bacteria in hospitals. C. difficile attacks people whose digestive tracts have been made vulnerable by antibiotics. The bacteria are the most common cause of infectious diarrhea in hospitals and care facilities.
The dogs are owned and trained by Invictus Detection Dogs, a company run by Teresa Zurberg. Angus’s services are currently contracted by the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, though his sniffer is in demand around the province.
“He currently works out of Vancouver Coastal Health four days a week,” said Jaime Kinna, Angus’s handler. “Mainly out of Vancouver General Hospital. But we do do other venues throughout B.C.”
Sniffing one’s way through a hospital is a job of work indeed.
“We don’t do a whole hospital in a day, certainly,” Kinna said. “We usually do about four units in a day — he does a search of a 33-bed unit, and then we give him a half hour break. Because this is a physical and mental job for him, this way he has time to relax, regroup and recharge his super-sniffer, and then we go off to the next unit.”
Dog work bacteria detection can actually be fast and effective. If the bacteria are detected, the unit can then be sterilized with the ultraviolet light.
Angus has been on the job for two years. He was the first dog in Canada to be validated to sniff out C. Difficile, but he has since been joined by another certified dog. Two more are in training.
Both Zurberg and Kinna have handled explosive detection dogs and narcotics detection dogs, but Angus’s career and others like him represent another step in the evolution of dogs helping out in human society.
And fittingly, on Monday, June 25, Vancouver Coastal Health’s C. difficile Canine Scent Detection Program received the award for the Top Innovation In Health Care at the B.C. Health Care Awards.
“Our whole thing is dogs helping people, and improving health care,” Kinna said. “This is bacteria that is common among all health authorities and care facilities, so if we can use the dogs’ natural abilities and talents to help save lives, then why wouldn’t we?”