A dogs’ hearing is acute, and they hear tones that humans are oblivious to, but are you aware that a dogs’ sense of smell is so strong and powerful that they can detect the subtle change in a person’s breath, when their sugar levels drop or raise. In fact, a canines’ sense of smell is more than 50 times stronger and more acute than that of a humans’. Not only can dogs “taste” with their sense of smell, but they can categorize different scents, and associate a particular scent with the reaction of humans.
We are all familiar with service dogs being trained to help the visually and hearing impaired, and although still in the beginning stages, there are at least two dozen people on a waiting list to become candidates for a diabetic alert dog.
There are only a handful of establishments in the United States of America that are equipped to train dogs to sense hyperglycemia. The training involved requires extensive dedication and expense which, sadly, limits the number of individuals that can benefit from a diabetic alert canine. Labrador and Golden Retrievers are the best suited dogs for this type of training, but ultimately, it comes down to the dog, and not necessarily a particular breed of dog.
When glucose levels drop under 80, a diabetic is in grave danger, dog trainers are able to duplicate the low sugar scent on a piece of gauze. During training, dogs are presented with this particular scent, so they become familiar with the diabetic danger zone. Not only are dogs trained to recognize the scent, but also how to react in alerting the individuals that danger is near, and that they need to check blood sugar levels and take prescribed medications immediately.
There is close to 25 million Americans that have diabetes, and 10% of that number have the most severe type (Type 1 Diabetes). For individuals that have had diabetes for a decade (or longer), many develop what is known as “hypoglycemia unawareness”, or they lose the ability to tell when their blood glucose levels are dropping rapidly.
Diabetic Alert Dogs are not a substitute to checking your blood glucose levels on a regular basis, following a healthy diet and exercise regimen, but they can effectively alert diabetic patients of a major fluctuation in blood sugar levels.