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Caroline Spielmann
Junior Member
Username: Maggie

Post Number: 8
Registered: 10-2003
Posted on Tuesday, May 09, 2006 - 11:08 am:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

The following article was carried in today's (May 9, 2006)Toronto Sun.

By Helen Branswell, The Canadian Press

A poodle involved in an Ontario hospital visitation program was found to be carrying the C. difficile bacterial strain that has caused severe epidemics in Quebec, the U.S. and Britain, a team of Canadian researchers reports.

Their findings suggest hospitals should have clearer rules about which rooms therapy animals are allowed to visit and underscores the need for staff and patients to wash hands before and after contact with a visiting pet.

"You have to be careful with therapy dogs," said lead author Dr. Sandra Lefebvre, a veterinarian and researcher at the Ontario Veterinary College in Guelph. "They may be carrying something and you just need to be more cautious than people are being right now."

Lefebvre and colleagues wrote of the finding in a letter to be published in the June issue of the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Lefebvre would not identify the facilities visited by the dog. There is no proof the dog infected any patients, Lefebvre said, noting facilities involved were reluctant to share information with her.

"They did have an increase in cases around the time that the dog was tested, so we could kind of make that link. But I have no idea whether the dog was the Typhoid Mary or not." (end of article)

There is no proof the therapy dog was the one who introduced the bacteria into the hospital, but the headline doesn't lead one to believe that. There may well be some fallout from this in the facilities we visit in, so thought I'd post what I know about this bacteria and its transmission.

Outbreaks of c. difficile in hospitals and nursing homes are very common and are not in any way dependent on a dog visiting the facility. This bacteria is a normal resident in the bowel of many people and dogs and, in healthy people and dogs, doesn't pose any risk. When people/dogs are sick and/or taking antibiotics or other medication, the good bacteria in the gut can be killed off allowing c. difficile to overgrow and cause problems. Because it is the same bacteria in people and dogs, transmission between the two is possible.

Following are some links with information about this bacteria and its method of transmission. l

I, personally, find this news report to be incredibly one-sided and the headline charges the dog as guilty even though when you read the article, Dr. Lefebvre says there is no actual proof the dog was the initial carrier. Since this is a zoonotic disease and is also an incredibly common infection in hospitals, there's every chance the dog could have picked it up in the hospital and not the other way around. Because it is normally present in the guts of a lot of healthy people and dogs, I'm not sure why its presence in the visiting poodle was regarded as abnormal and placed the dog at the top of the list as the guilty party.

Although I would need a whole lot more proof in this case to believe it was actually the dog who brought the bacteria in, there's no denying it is possible. Now might be a good time to remind all volunteers that they should never take their dogs in to visit a facility if the dog is suffering from any kind of gastrointestinal problem. Dogs should not be allowed to lick patients and volunteers should wash their hands with disinfectant on entering and leaving the facility.

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Melissa Yingbull
Senior Member
Username: Mying

Post Number: 108
Registered: 11-2002
Posted on Tuesday, May 09, 2006 - 12:58 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Dr. Lefebvre is involved in some of the most in-depth research into the benefits -- and risks -- of therapy dogs, as part of a team investigating zoonotic disease transmission in all domestic animals. The goal of this kind of work is to make therapy dog visitations the safest they can be for all involved -- the clients, the dogs, and the dog handlers and owners. The media release from the University of Guelph is nice because it is less about shock value and Dr.Lefebvre makes some common-sense suggestions. ml
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Caroline Spielmann
Junior Member
Username: Maggie

Post Number: 9
Registered: 10-2003
Posted on Wednesday, June 14, 2006 - 07:54 am:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I thought I'd post an update on this subject. The CDC has published a letter from Dr. Lefebvre which, if I'm interpreting the scientific jargon correctly, states that the strain of c. difficile found in the poodle has now been identified as a human strain. This apparently is the first time this human strain has ever been seen in any animal. She says " The recurrent exposure of this dog to human healthcare settings suggests that the animal acquired this strain during visits to the hospital or long-term care facility, either from the healthcare environment or contaminated hands of human contacts."

If anyone would like to read the letter, here is the link

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