Dog Alerts Blood Sugar Swing

Serena Gordon of HealthDay Reporter told of a “wonder dog” who alerts the owner to blood sugar swings.  It seems that animals have an uncanny ability to be more than we think and not just a man’s best friend.

A woman is constantly followed by her service dog which, she calls Type 1 Wonder Dog.  The dog is trained to sniff out dangerously high and low blood sugar levels and will alert the woman so she can take action.  The woman has had type 1 diabetes for more than three decades and had eventually reached the point where she was no longer able to feel the dangerous swings in her blood sugar levels.  The dog was originally security for her family as things had gotten so bad that her husband was afraid to travel and the kids were afraid to go to school.  They  were really worried that they would come home some day to find her passed out.

The border collie has finally brought the woman and her family peace of mind.  The woman’s blood sugar management has significantly improved with the help of her dog, telling everyone she is like a big security blanket!

Over 27 owner records on dogs trained by the same charity groups were reviewed by the researchers.  During more than 4,000 out of range episodes, the dogs picked up an average of 70% of the episodes.  The dogs picked up on 83% of the low blood sugar episodes and an average of 67% of high blood sugar levels.  Study author Nicola Rooney said the dogs have the immense potential to increase the quality of life of their companions and can reduce health risk and even save lives.  The owners are consistently rewarding their dogs which tends to have them do the best.  The study was published in the journal PLOS One.

Some people aren’t convinced this is a better way than the latest technology for diabetic alerts.  The continuous glucose monitors measure blood sugar levels every five minutes or so and will sound an alarm when the blood sugar levels are too high or too low.  Linda Gonder-Frederick from the Behavioral Medicine Center at the University of Virginia said there are some studies where there are a lot of mixed results.  She believes the jury is still out, but a diabetic alert dog is definitely the most user-friendly glucose monitor we have and a lot is asked of these dogs to work 24/7.

To consider an alert dog you need to ask how comfortable you are with getting a lot of attention and be willing to put in the time to train the dog and consistently reinforcing and rewarding the dog for alerting you.  There is no specific breed of dog suited to being a diabetic alert dog and it just comes down to the dog’s temperament and one that’s naturally social, confident and very food-motivated while tending to stay close to a person naturally.

Service dog organizations have about a 50% failure rate as dogs are living creatures and much work goes into being one.  Neither do they come cheaply with a cost of $14,000 up to $38,000 to raise and train.  Medical Detection Dogs is a charity and the dogs are given to people with diabetes for free.

It’s vital to investigate any organization offering the trained dogs as a lot of money is involved and there is also a potential to be scammed.  Search well through internet and with the Better Business Bureau.

Dr Fredda Branyon