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Queensway Carleton Hospital welcomes dog trained at sniffing out C. difficile

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From bomb and drug sniffing to helping make someone's day better, dogs have big jobs in many places. A canine trained to sniff out a superbug is at an Ottawa hospital this week.

K9 Fancy is trained for one very specific and important job.

"She looks for environmental reservoirs of Clostridium difficile, so 'C-diff', the superbug," says Teresa Zurberg with Vancouver Coastal Health's Canines for Care.

C. difficile is a bacteria that's highly contagious, and tends to target those who are immunocompromised. K9 Fancy finds it by sniffing it out.

"Visiting the hospitals adds another layer of safety," says Zurberg. "The dogs are able to make what's invisible — these hidden reservoirs of C-diff — visible."

Zurberg and K9 Fancy are from Vancouver and are spending time at the Queensway Carleton Hospital this week.

Teresa Zurberg with Vancouver Coastal Health's Canines for Care visiting the Queensway Carleton Hospital with K9 Fancy to find C-diff. (Peter Szperling/CTV News Ottawa)

"After the visit, we get a detailed report on Fancy's findings, which helps us improve our processes moving forward," says Dan Marlot with the QCH. "We have a very robust infection prevention and control practices in place, but we're always looking to improve them."

K9 Fancy sniffs out what might otherwise be missed.

"Fancy can identify things that we can't see with the naked eye," says Marlot.

Her visit is also sparking conversation about transmission with staff.

"It makes us kind of a little tighter on our cleaning and making sure we're having a good, safe space for everyone," says QCH Registered Nurse Bailey Newhook.

Zurberg visits hospital across the country to help others, after dealing with the superbug herself years ago, "I was in my early forties, relatively healthy, and I lost 20 pounds in seven days," she says. "And I still have ongoing issues from having C-diff at that time. So I cannot imagine what it would do to our elderly patients that have other medical issues going on."

K9 Fancy is rewarded for her hard work with treats.

"When she shows us where it is, she'll get a cookie," says Zurberg. 

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