Doggy Medics Can Raise Alarm for Diabetics and Save Lives

As well as being man’s best friend, dogs have been helping him in real practical ways throughout history.  For centuries, dogs have helped blind people by leading them safely through traffic and other obstacles.  Now these loving creatures are proving their worth yet again as “nurses” for diabetics.

In diabetes, blood sugar levels are not controlled as they are in a healthy person, because the sufferer is not producing enough insulin or because his body has lost the ability to respond to it.  After a meal his blood sugar may spike, which over time may damage organs and tissues.  However, he may also suffer symptoms from low blood sugar, such as nausea, faintness, and mental confusion.  These can be dangerous too if left untreated, leading to a diabetic coma with possible brain damage.  In addition, a diabetic with low blood sugar could fall and injure himself or be involved in a road accident if he was driving at the time.

These conditions may affect all diabetics, whether they are type 1 or type 2.  However, not all diabetics experience symptoms when their blood sugar crashes, which can leave them vulnerable.  A diabetic living alone may not know to seek help or take action such as eating something if he is not aware his blood sugar has fallen dangerously.

However, just as they have helped blind and deaf people, and latterly people prone to epileptic fits, Diabetic Alert Dogs have come to the rescue.  Many dogs can be trained to respond to low blood sugar in their owners, which they can detect by smell or perhaps other signals such as slight behavior changes.  They then let their owner know by signals they have been trained to give, that he needs to take action.  These clever pets will even wake their owner up if necessary to let him know his blood sugar needs to be raised by eating something.

In modern times diabetics have had the benefit of a battery of devices, from simple finger stick tests to continuous glucose monitoring systems that watch blood glucose night and day.  However, many people with a DAD (Diabetic Alert Dog) say the animal serves as a better early warning system.

Like guide dogs, the DADs come at a price: it costs around $20,000 to train a dog.  In addition, diabetics with alert dogs have reported they are not always permitted in restaurants, offices, shops and other venues that welcome blind people and their guide dogs.

As well as being able to detect early signs of hypoglycemia, the alert dogs provide companionship, vital to the morale of a diabetic who lives alone, and ensures the person gets plenty of exercise walking them.  Exercise is a vital component of diabetes care, and tends to help the patient not only control his blood sugar better but also lose weight.

Moreover, these medical mutts can even bring the telephone to their owner in an emergency, when perhaps he is lying on the floor unable to reach the receiver.  On the other hand, the dog can even fetch his owner a snack to raise his blood sugar.

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