The Effectiveness of Diabetic Alert Dogs

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The use of Diabetic Alert Dogs to manage blood sugar levels in Type 1 Diabetic Children
13,000 children and adolescents are diagnosed annually with type 1 diabetes. Traditional care and management for this disease includes insulin therapy and blood sugar monitoring. One of the dangers associated with disease is hypoglycemia most commonly referred to as low blood sugar. To date 1 in 3 of the individuals diagnosed with type 1 diabetes will die from an undetected low blood sugar, mostly resulting from hypoglycemia unawareness while the child and caregiver is sleeping. The use of a scent trained service dog has prevented the loss of life for many diabetic individuals. Diabetic Alert Dogs are trained to detect fluctuating blood sugars and alert the child and caregiver before a hypo or hyper-glycemic episode occurs. When properly trained Diabetic Alert Dogs can help manage and control unfavorable blood sugar levels in diabetic children, using scent training to provide safety and security.

Science and studies have shown that use of scent training in dogs has worked and is proven effective. Scenting and alert dogs have been used in various fields, from drug scenting to search and rescue. Research has proven that canines are capable to work side-by-side with their handlers to get the job done. According to Wells, Lawson, and Siriwardena (2008) “canines are able to detect the biochemical hormone which is released when an individual’s blood glucose level is fluctuating” (p. 1236). High and Low glucose levels release a unique and distinct odor. As explained by Dan Warren of Warren Retrievers and Guardian Angel Service Dogs, an acetone like scent is an indicator of low glucose levels while a sweet or fruity odor is associated with a high glucose level. Scenting Dogs are trained to alert to these odors using consistent training and positive reinforcement (personal communication October 6, 2011). Canines have a superior and innate sense of smell. In his natural...
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