Angus isn’t your ordinary English Springer Spaniel. The pup, who lives in Vancouver, British Columbia with his owner and handler, Teresa Zurberg, has a unique job. He’s trained to detect colonies of a bacteria called Clostridium difficile, or C-diff.
C-diff is potentially life-threatening and is most often found in fecal matter. The infection is common in hospitals, like the one where Angus works, Vancouver General Hospital. Facilities like this are moving patients in and out with rooms that are cleaned frequently but perhaps not thoroughly enough. The United States Center for Disease Control estimates that roughly 500,000 Americans are infected each year, with 15,000 resulting in death. Therefore, it’s important to take Angus’ job seriously.
At a recent press conference, he performed the task of finding purposefully placed C-diff under a hospital stretcher. Those involved wanted to see how long it would take him to find the bacteria. Angus found it under 10 seconds – an incredible feat. In fact, the amount of cases of C-diff infection have decreased significantly since Angus started working at the hospital.
This month last year, there were a reported 108 cases and this year only 80. The results are so impressive that Angus is getting a new colleague to help him with the important tasks. Dodger is another English Springer Spaniel and will soon be working alongside the dedicated canine.
Detection dogs are trained to locate so many different scents, from narcotics and explosives to bedbugs and even bacteria. With the rate of C-diff dropping so greatly, we hope to see many more dogs trained to detect it like Angus and Dodger are. They’ve also brought to light a review and possible change of hospital cleaning methods, because there certainly shouldn’t be this much contamination. Thanks to Angus, and soon Dodger, we’ll hopefully be seeing an even bigger decrease in the presence of C-diff.