Dogs Smelling Diabetes
They are called Diabetes Assist dogs, and they do exit. There are several organizations that provide Diabetes Assist Dogs to patients at no cost to them. These dogs are made available to people who have Type One Diabetes. These people are typically those that wear insulin pumps and are at the greatest risk for injury or death due to their condition.
How do the dogs do it?
Diabetes Assist Dogs are trained to monitor their owners for the smell that indicates their blood sugar levels are too low. The smell comes through to the dog on their owner’s breath. When the dog detects this specific smell, he will alert his owner. The owner is then supposed to check their diabetes levels to see if their is a problem. The Diabetes Assist Dogs wear service dog backpacks that usually contain relevant medical information on the owner and a source of sugar in case their owner starts to be hypoglycemic. When a person starts to be hypoglycemic, there is a change in their body that produces a distinctive smell on their breath. The smell is the same for all people.
How are the dogs trained?
When a dog is being considered for a Diabetes Assist Dog, the evaluation begins when they are puppies. Each puppy is evaluated for his willingness to work. His smelling skills are also repeatedly tested. The puppies are trained to alert to that very specific smell that all humans produce when their blood sugar begins to dip too low. The training is very similar to the training drug sniffing or bomb sniffing dogs go through.The dogs are introduced to the smell and gradually through progressive training, they learn to respond to that unique smell. Then the dog is trained to respond in a specific way, namely indicating to their owner that they have picked up the smell of low blood sugar.