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Can Dogs Be Trained to Sense a Low Blood Sugar?

By April 27, 2011

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There are many people who are living proof that dogs can be trained to respond to a low blood sugar just as effectively as service dogs for the blind or the hearing impaired. Perhaps you are one of them.

Although I've known of these diabetes assist dogs my interest was piqued again when I recently came across an article that mentioned a man named Alan Peters who trains all types of assist dogs, including those for diabetes. His business is called Can Do Canines and is located in New Hope, Minnesota. He is among a growing number of people across the country that are starting to understand how important these assist dogs can be for people with type 1 diabetes.

It works like this: the diabetes assist dogs are specifically trained to monitor a specific scent on the human breath that is related to a rapid drop in blood sugar levels. When the dog senses this odor they are trained to alert the person with diabetes by touching them, licking their face, or nudging a hand. This acts as the signal that their blood sugar may be low and should be checked. These dogs can also be trained to retrieve food or liquid, get an emergency phone, or seek help from another person in the house.

I'd love to hear about some real life experiences. If you have had experience with either a trained diabetes assist dog or even an untrained dog that has shown an ability to detect low blood sugar, share your story below.

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May 25, 2011 at 5:55 pm
(1) Char says:

I have an 11-year old daughter who is a Type-1 Diabetic (diagnosed at the age of 2). Our little Jack Russell/Chihuahua mix “Coco” is definitely not a trained service dog; however, he has, on several occassions, woke up in the middle of the night and nudged me or barked to wake me, then led me into my daugther’s bedroom to check on her. After trying to wake her, and being unsuccessful, or having her wake very disoriented, I have checked her blood glucose level which was very low. There have been other times, as well, that he has alerted me when she was experiencing a diabetic seizure. I DO believe that dogs have the ability to smell ketoacidosis on the breath, as well as sense when something is wrong. I often wonder how life will play out for my daughter when she is old enough to want to move out on her own. Will she/or should she live alone? Who will be there to care for her in an emergency if her sugars go low and she is disoriented, or God-forbid, has a seizure? I don’t think Coco will be around long enough to move with her, so I hope that dogs will be trained to help assist those with diabetes live more normal lives.

May 29, 2011 at 11:14 pm
(2) Heather says:

Dear Char, I am 28 and was first diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at twenty-one months old. My family experienced the same difficulties of seizures and low blood sugars when I was younger. Once your daughter is a little bit older, she’ll be able to recognize signs of get low blood sugar. It is important that she share her diabetes with loved ones. When my husband and I first moved in together, I taught him how to give a glucagon injection, and he went with me to my endocrinologist appointments. Wroth proper care and responsibility, your daughter will be able to live a happy, normal life.

My husband and I have a silky terrier. When she was about three, she started waking me up at when my glucose level started to drop, and remains agitated until it returns to normal. We never trained her to do this; our vet said she had become sensitive to it on her own. It had been an interesting development that can be very helpful.

June 11, 2011 at 1:16 pm
(3) Shauna says:

I have been a type I diabetic for 28 years, since I was 9 years old. I sometimes have low blood sugar reactions in the middle of the night but don’t wake up until the symptoms are really bad, usually sweating, rapid heart beat and shaking. By this time my sugar is usually down in the 40′s when tested.

I adopted a little Scottish Terrier puppy back in December when she was just 12 weeks old. She is now 9 months old and has started doing something amazing! Just in the last week or so I have had two instances where she became very alert in the middle of the night and was walking all over me and nudging my face. I woke up and put her outside and then after being up for a few minutes could tell that my blood sugar was dropping. Both times when I tested my sugars were in the low 60′s. I believe she can sense the changes and alerts me. She never gets me up in the middle of the night except on these two occasions.

It is so much better to be awakened and able to treat my low blood sugar before it drops too low. She has had no training but only time will tell if she continues to alert me when my sugar drops. I hope she does!

July 10, 2011 at 10:31 pm
(4) cecil timmons says:

I am 77 years old with type 2 diabetes. I was recently put on insulin at night afte oral medicine for about 30 years. I still use oral medicine in the morning. I hav a lasho apso dog that is 11 1/2 years old Since I have ben on evening insulin i have had six times my blood glucose dropped below 60 in the middle of the jight. The dog wakee me up by walking up and down the bed and crossing over me to wake me up. Last night I got up and sat in the kitchen to eat some but she was not with me so she woke my wife up to get her to check on me. The dog sleeps on my pillow with her face just above mey face. When I turn over she changes her position too. The dog is also diabetic and on insulin twice daily. Maybe that makes a difference. I don’t know but I sure know I am glad we have her.

January 2, 2012 at 3:59 pm
(5) Banshees mom says:

My blue heeler Banshee made me get up today about an hour before my sugar plummeted. She turned one year old Jan 1,2012. This is the first time she has done this and my first bad drop in a long time. She pawed at my face until I got up. I love this dog even more!

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