Diabetic Alert Dogs are trained to alert diabetic handlers in advance of low or high blood sugar events, before a dangerous situation can occur.
By using their incredible sense of smell, these dogs can sniff out any changes in their owner’s glucose level up to 30 minutes before a blood glucose monitor, giving the owner’s time to alter their artificial insulin level before symptoms occur. Dogs have over 200 million sensors in their noses that can smell individual scents at 1 part per trillion. Rapid changes in blood sugar levels are expressed in a person’s breath and skin. Diabetic Alert Dogs are trained to associate this change in scent with a reward, and be persistent about receiving it! They have changed the lives of children and adults everywhere.
Although they will never be a replacement for current protocols and checks made by a diabetic, Alert Dogs can certainly be an extremely beneficial, added safety net. They can bring a sense of independence and responsibility to a child suffering with the disease, as well as being a long term friend and companion.
Living with a DAD can bring so much comfort to a busy household with a Type 1 diabetic child, it is an added layer of protection for unpredictable changes in blood sugar that happen on a daily basis.
Almost anything can alter the blood glucose level, even with control over food intake and exercise; this makes life very difficult for any diabetic, especially active children. The psychological advantages of having a service dog are second to none. Living with diabetes can be embarrassing, especially for a child or teenager who is trying to fit in at school. Having a dog brings conversation and confidence to a child who can be proud to have such an incredible tool.
Companion Animal Psychology UK have studied the psychological benefits of owning a DAD and found that owners experienced significantly less hypoglycemic episodes, reduced paramedic call outs, improved independence and even described having a DAD as “an enhanced quality of life”. This is especially important for people that have developed hypoglycaemic unawareness and aren’t able to recognise the changes on their own. People who sleep heavily and struggle to wake up to check glucose levels at night, often have trouble falling asleep at all, due to fear of missing an alarm. This decreases focus during the day at work or school. Mothers and fathers of diabetic children also have sleepless nights of worry and have to constantly check on their child.
The added benefit of a Diabetic Alert Dog is that they can be trained for night time alerts. It is important to mention that it is never the dog’s sole responsibility to alert owners, and that usual monitoring must continue to be used.
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