NORMALLY, a person can feel the warning signals of LOW BLOOD SUGAR (sweating, shaking, nausea, and confusion); however, some are unable to feel these symptoms and are thus unaware that their blood sugar is dropping or is dangerously low. This can lead to seizures, brain damage, or passing out while driving – Diabetic Alert Service Dog: a dog that gives a trained signal to alert its partner to low or high blood sugar levels.
Animal behaviour consultants can train your dog to be a Diabetic Alert Dog by guiding and training your dog to alert you in advance of low (hypoglycemia) or high (hyperglycemia) blood sugar events before they become dangerous, so that you can take steps to return their blood sugar to normal, such as using glucose sweets or taking insulin.
The dogs are trained to accompany their owners wherever they travel in the manner of guide dogs and assistance dogs. The training process is done much like that of a termite detection dog. The dog is rewarded for finding a high blood sugar (it is supposed to smell like tutty fruity gum) or the low blood sugar that is supposed to smell like rusty water or nail polish remover.
Tarra Robinson, after having Type 1 diabetes her entire life, became unaware of her low blood sugars, a condition known as hypo-unawareness. She began passing out at work and crashed her car due to unexpected lows. An insulin pump and a continuous glucose monitor didn’t improve the situation. She then began the training process with her Lab/Golden Retriever mix named Duchess.
Diabetes Alert Dogs are trained to detect the scent of low blood sugar levels, are right 90 per cent of the time, according to consultants. Dogs are trained to lick the hand if they sense a low. When a diabetic sleeps, the dog will stand guard and get on top of the person to try and wake them is she smells a low.
If you would like more information on how your dog can be trained in this and other ways, talk to your vet or you can email me at david@thedogman for advice.