Angus, a detection specialist dog, shows off his skills to the media with his handler, Jaime Kinna, at Vernon Jubilee Hospital (Pete McIntyre/Beach Radio.)
A specialist has been visiting Vernon Jubilee Hospital today, but his specialty is not medicine.
Angus, a four year old springer spaniel, is one of only two dogs in the world trained to sniff-out clostridium difficile bacteria, which dog handler Jaime Kinna says can be hard to detect, and harmful.
“It’s one of the most common bacteria you’ll see in any hospital. It’s something that’s in the environment, regardless. And this can be a deadly bacteria. It can cause mild diarrhea, it can cause severe diarrhea,” Kinna told the media.
Kinna says Angus took about a year to train.
“We train them in a very similar manner to how you would train explosives or narcotics dogs, so they are trained to locate the odour, and when they locate the odour, they are reinforced. In in Angus’s case, it’s a game for him. Every time he locates c-diff, he will sit and pinpoint the source of the odour, and he’ll get a cookie,” says Kinna.
Kinna says once Angus detects the bacteria, hospital staff dispose of the harmful substance.
Valerie Wood, Interior Health’s Director of Infection Prevention and Control, says Angus provides a valuable service.
“We clean, clean, clean, but we’re human. Areas can be missed, so this is giving us the capability of checking some of those areas, and some high touch surfaces that, because even with housekeeping, they’re not there 24-7,” Wood told a media demonstration.
Angus is actually property of the Coastal Health Authority, and is loaned out to other hospitals to do his sniffing, with a 97 percent accuracy rate.
“There are dogs that are sniffing for cancer in Europe, for Parkinson’s as well. We’re certainly hoping to expand this program to a more province-wide capability because we are finding it successful, and we’re getting wonderful feedback,” adds Kinna.
Angus has also made visits to hospitals in Cranbrook, Penticton, Kelowna and Kamloops this year.