Scent-Tracking Dogs Help Hospitals Track the Superbug C Diff

Hospitals are scary enough but patients also have to worry about C diff.  C difficile is linked to the rising use of broad-spectrum antibiotics, which can wipe out a patient's normal gut bacteria and allow the bacterium to multiply and produce toxins that inflame the colon. C difficile infections are the leading cause of hospital-acquired diarrhea in the world.

It's no wonder we're bringing in dogs to sniff out C diff. The article in CIDRAP reports about a dog that is highly trained to sniff out this superbug so patients are safe and hospitals no longer have to worry about this deadly bacterium.

Angus, a 5-year-old English springer spaniel, works with his handler in patient quality and safety at the Vancouver General Hospital. They are part of a canine scent-detection program started in 2016 to detect C difficile on equipment and environmental surfaces at the hospital. 

"When Angus detects the diarrhea-causing pathogen on a nursing station or in a hallway, his sniffing grows more intense. If Angus sits, lies down, or starts pacing back and forth, Zurberg knows he's found what he's looking for."

How horrible is this statistic?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that each year C difficile causes more than 450,000 infections in US hospitals, is associated with more than 29,000 deaths, and costs the US healthcare system nearly $5 billion.

It can be life-threatening for some patients.

This is the scariest part of the article.

"More than half of the hits in the general environment (192/321, 59.8%) were on items almost exclusively handled by healthcare workers, such as carts, equipment that measures and monitors patient vital signs, and staff lockers. There were also alerts in areas shared by the public, including waiting rooms and public bathrooms."

If this is true then every hospital should have a team of scent dogs working the hallways and rooms daily.

If you want to play nosework with your dog, try the DIFFLIFE Snuffle Mat Nosework. It's available on Amazon! This is one of our all-time fave puzzle toys and we simply hide treats they can find as an enrichment activity.

Have you worked with any trained scent dogs? Let us know in the comments.

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