What Are Diabetic Alert Dogs and Can They Sniff Out Low Blood Sugar? - Diabetes Health Page

What Are Diabetic Alert Dogs and Can They Sniff Out Low Blood Sugar?

By Gabriela | Diabetes

What Are Diabetic Alert Dogs and Can They Sniff Out Low Blood Sugar

Diabetic Alert Dogs are serving dogs which are trained to alert those with diabetes to an oncoming hypoglycemic event.

The risk of losing consciousness due to a sudden drop in the blood sugar levels is a constant fear of those with diabetes who take insulin. So, in order to avoid that, many of them use continuous glucose monitor devices.

However, not everyone has access to these devices. And, even if they do, some prefer a friendlier option – a diabetic alert dog (DAD).

There are different ways to train dogs to become DADs, but there’s no universally accepted test to prove their competence. Their price can vary from $8,000 to $20,000. Still, there are some non-profit organizations that can help you get the dog for a lower price.

The pediatric endocrinologist Evan Los from the Oregon Health & Science University believes that even though DADs have become quite popular among the diabetes community, their effectiveness is not entirely known.

How Do DADs Know When One’s Blood Sugar Drops?

Supposedly, these dogs are able to alert their owners of an upcoming hypoglycemic event by reacting to certain smells that the human’s body emits in such condition.

However, no one can say if DADs “smell” low blood glucose or just notice usual symptoms like shaking or sweating.

The journal Diabetes Care published a study according to which the dogs might smell a specific substance in one’s breath that increases as their blood glucose drops. The substance is the volatile organic substance isoprene.

However, another study showed that DADs can also give false alerts to owners. What’s more, their alerts were usually slower than those of a continuous glucose monitoring device.

A Dog’s World

It seems no one knows the exact way these dogs sense a drop in the blood sugar levels. But, patients are still using them. Generally, people who have them are satisfied with the results. Some patients even say they get more irritated if a CGM gives them a false alarm, then when their dog does that.

In a way, having a diabetic alert dog helps these people in their everyday management of diabetes. With them, they have an increased sense of security, love, and emotional support.

Where to Find a Dog Alert Dog?

First, a person has to find a legitimate organization with trainers that will help them in the choosing and training of their dog alert dog. Also, there are special training schools that will help them in the development and the very training process of their new dog.

They’ll be matched with the right dog for them, which will have to learn their body’s chemistry. This is part of the training. Finally, they are both bonded with the help of scheduled home visits. Usually, people wait for 6 months to get their own diabetic alert dog.