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What Makes For A Good Diabetes Service Dog?

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It's almost impossible for scientists to precisely quantify, but a dog's sense of smell is exponentially better than a human's. It is this heightened sense of smell that makes them excellent hunters and served them well before domestication. These days, that excellent sense of smell serves a dog well in assisting their owners as a medical alert dog.

Okay, so a dog's nose can't actually test a person's blood sugar and tell them whether or not to have some glucose or maybe some insulin if necessary. But, it can detect the fruity smell of ketones coming from a person's breath, which would tell them that the person has a dangerously high blood sugar level. By contrast, a medical alert dog can also tell if a person has too low of a blood sugar level and may be experiencing a hypoglycemic episode.

It's not enough that a dog can detect high and low blood sugar levels with their superior sniffers, however. They also need to know what the appropriate thing to do is once they discover a blood sugar that is either too high or too low. These types of medical alert dogs are normally trained to alert the person or caregiver of a problematic situation approximately 15 to 30 minutes before symptoms would surface. This gives the person an incredible advantage in being able to treat their condition in a timely manner, which can prevent several bad conditions from arising including anything from seizure and coma to death.

So, what types of dogs make for a good diabetes service dog? Golden retrievers because of their generally sweet demeanor and intense devotion to their owners make a great choice. Also, poodles and labrador retrievers, as well as certain mixed breeds of sporting dogs can usually be trained to become excellent medical alert dogs for diabetic patients.

What's important is that the dog must have a desirable mix of a pleasant temperament with a superior sniffer. Many basset hound and bloodhound owners think their dogs would be a perfect choice for such an activity because their sniffers are some of the best in the animal kingdom. The truth is that it's almost too good though. These breeds can become slaves to their nose, often times ignoring their master's orders in favor of whatever smell it is that is so strongly attracting them.

The wonderfully gifted pets, who are good diabetes service dogs are usually trained to recognize a significant change in their owner's blood sugar level by doing any of the following appropriately:

  • Call 911 with a special device if needed
  • Bring insulin or glucose to their owner depending on what the particular situation calls for
  • Alert others by barking or nudging with their nose to let them know that their assistance is needed
  • Bring a cell phone in their mouth so their owner can use it to call for medical help

If you are a person living with type 1 diabetes and feel you could benefit from a medical alert dog specially trained in diabetes service, there are several organizations available that will train dogs and may be able to provide you with one. Most of them can be found with a simple Google search. Once you contact them, they should be able to provide you with plenty of information about their programs, which usually entails an application and a somewhat involved matching process. Another good source of information is always your endocrinologist. Most practicing diabetes specialists are well aware of the many benefits of medical alert dogs and should be able to steer you in the right direction for this service.

Keep in mind at all times that although these dogs do provide their owners with a wonderful service, they still require a loving and nurturing relationship with their owners. It is important that you are able to commit yourself to being a responsible owner to your pet by feeding them, bathing them, giving them regular exercise, and taking them to all their necessary veterinary appointments. Just like with any other dog/owner relationship, it's a loving two-way street.

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