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Sweet Service: Diabetic Alert Dogs

One of the many side effects of the obesity epidemic in the United States is the increasing number of people dealing with Type II diabetes. Type I diabetics tend not to be obese, their bodies just stop producing insulin. WithBanting, A Diabetic Alert Dog (You Tube Image)Banting, A Diabetic Alert Dog (You Tube Image) either type, the disease puts its sufferers into a balancing act between their blood sugar being too high or too low. Either is dangerous and must be dealt with immediately. While most diabetics are able to detect the changes in their bodies so that they can take action, others are not. A diabetic alert dog can notify these people when their blood sugar is dangerously high or low.

Approximately 26 million people in the United States, both adults and children, are diabetic. The disease is caused either by the body not producing insulin (type I) or the insulin being produced by the body is not being used properly by the body (type II). Either way, this leads to abnormally high blood sugars which can lead to serious complications and death. In the past Type I diabetes was referred to as "childhood onset" diabetes while Type II was referred to as  "adult onset" diabetes. These days, however, children as young as five are developing Type II diabetes. Being overweight is not the only factor in Type II diabetes, poor nutrition and genetics also play a role.

The opposite end of this spectrum, the blood sugar going too low (from too much insulin), can be just as dangerous, even deadly. This can occur unexpectedly and quickly.

People who are unable to easily detect when their sugar is the dangerous range, either high or low, can now have a service dog that will alert them or others to the fact. This can be especially important for parents of children with diabetes. Children may not recognize the symptoms or be able to verbalize what is happening.

The dogs apparently use their sense of smell to determine that there is a problem. Diabetics can go into ketoacidosis which creates as sort of "fruity" smell to the breath and possibly other changes in odor that the dog is able to detect sooner than diabetics may be able to detect for themselves. The dog will then alert the person by whining and licking. If the person is not responding they can be trained to alert others.

While those training the dogs and those using the dogs know that this works, no one is sure exactly what it is the dogs are detecting.

These dogs can also be trained to bring the test kit and even emergency food or drink to the diabetic. In some cases the dog can even be trained to dial 911 in an emergency.

One in twenty Type I diabetics die when their sugars drops too low. For many diabetics having an alert dog is added peace of mind in dealing with a difficult disease.

Sources: Diabetic Alert Dogs, Mother Nature Network, NIDAD

EDITOR'S NOTE:  Article updated to clarify and correct some information in original version. 

Laurie Kay Olson
Animal News Blogger
PetsLady.com

Comments
Mar 6, 2013
by Anonymous
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While I appreciate the blog

While I appreciate the blog highlighting these amazing dogs, I must point out several misstatements of fact-

“One of the many side effects of the obesity epidemic in the United States is the increasing number of people dealing with diabetes.”

Type 1 diabetes has absolutely NOTHING to do with obesity, whatsoever. Type 1 diabetes is autoimmune. Diabetes alert dogs are much more commonly trained for type 1 diabetics. My daughter is 13, thin and active, she has diabetes because her own body attacked the insulin producing cells in her pancreas. Her diabetes is 100% unrelated to diet or weight.

The dog will then alert the person by whining and licking.”

Most dogs are trained to perform an action, not simply whine and lick. My daughters dog grabs a bringsel and then signals her with a body movement whether her bloodsugar is high or low.

“One in twenty Type I diabetics die in their sleep when their insulin drops too low.”

First, I don’t know where you got this statistic. JDRF has provided a statistic that 1 in 20 type 1 diabetics will die of a low blood sugar, but that doesn’t mean it’s “in their sleep”. More importantly, a low blood sugar doesn’t mean “insulin drops too low”, it means there’s TOO MUCH INSULIN in the body, hence the LOW blood sugar.

Mar 6, 2013
by Anonymous
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If you'd like to discuss my

If you'd like to discuss my comment above or have any questions, you can find me at https://www.facebook.com/ADiabetesServiceDogForSarah

Mar 6, 2013
by Anonymous
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OMG!!!!! I agree with

OMG!!!!! I agree with ADiabstesServiceDogForSarha. Please do your research. I am offended by this article. My son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at 20 months of age. He was not obese then and, 11 years later, he's not obese now. Furthermore, diabetes does not cause low blood sugars. Low blood sugars is a side effect of taking insulin.

Mar 6, 2013
by Anonymous
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Thanks for those

Thanks for those corrections. Me and my 6 year old, slim, active child with Type 1 appreciate it.

Mar 6, 2013
by Anonymous
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T1 Diabetes has zero to do

T1 Diabetes has zero to do with obesity. Please do your research before you write. You owe that to your readers.

Mar 6, 2013
by Laurie Kay Olson
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Thank you for your comments.

Thank you for your comments. Please note that the article was not focused entirely on Type I diabetics but all diabetics. Today children as young as 5 are being diagnosed with Type II diabetes and are often equally at risk. Since the story was about the alert dogs and not diabetes, I relied on the alert dog resources for my information. I do apologize for any information that I received from them was incorrect.

I am an insulin dependent Type II diabetic myself and understand the dangers of both high and low blood sugar first hand. One of these dogs would be just as valuable to me as any Type 1 diabetic.

Mar 6, 2013
by Anonymous
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I appreciate that your

I appreciate that your article was not focused on a particular type of diabetes; however, your opening statement groups all diabetes as part of the obesity epidemic, which is untrue and upsetting for parents of kids with type 1 who often have to deal with stereotypes that obesity and food are a cause. If your article was truly about all diabetes, then it is critical to either omit the cause, or spell them out separately for each type of diabetes.

You also stated “One in twenty Type I diabetics die in their sleep when their insulin drops too low.” This is completely false, and as a type II diabetic on insulin, you must know that too much insulin results in low blood sugar, not too little.

As far as alerting, most qualified service dog trainers would never teach a dog to whine as an alert, as service dogs are required to be silent. You certainly wouldn’t want to take a service dog to a movie or the theater if the dog was going to whine during the show.

It’s incredibly important to get facts right when you’re talking about diabetes, as it’s already an incredibly misunderstood disease.
I am a blogger myself, and in blogging I can write an article and have it out for viewing quickly. But as bloggers we have a responsibility to check the facts when we are unsure or we risk perpetuating incorrect information and stereotypes, which I’m certain was not your goal.

Michelle - https://www.facebook.com/ADiabetesServiceDogForSarah

Mar 6, 2013
by Anonymous
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It's bad enough to have to

It's bad enough to have to explain the difference to the general public as a father of a type 1, but to also have an actual diabetic perpetuate the obesity stereotype?

And as for DAD's, we have 2. Both have been trained to provide non-verbal alerts, so that we can go out in public and not have a whining dog while you enjoy a nice dinner next to us. Or at the movies, library, etc. We already stand out and draw attention, but to have a loud dog on top of that would not allow us the access we need in public places.

Mar 6, 2013
by Anonymous
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Didn't mean to post that

Didn't mean to post that anonymously....

Frank from http://runningwithdads.blogspot.com/

Mar 6, 2013
by Anonymous
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I understand your post is

I understand your post is about dogs and not diabetes, but you do a real disservice to all of those living with the diseases when you post things without checking your facts! Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA) can be detected by humans, including the fruity breath you mentioned. Not that I'm taking anything away from what the dogs can do.

Mar 6, 2013
by Laurie Kay Olson
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Once again, thank you for

Once again, thank you for all of your input. I have updated the article to correct misinformaton and clarify other information. I apologize for any distress this may have caused.

Mar 7, 2013
by Anonymous
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Laurie, thank you so much

Laurie, thank you so much for making the changes. I really appreciate it. If you're ever interested in learning more about diabetes alert dogs, please feel free to contact me. Have a wonderful weekend.

Michelle - https://www.facebook.com/ADiabetesServiceDogForSarah

Mar 7, 2013
by Anonymous
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I am a Type 1 diabetic and

I am a Type 1 diabetic and read your article. It seems that all of the people ridiculing what you wrote, clearly did NOT read it. Their excerpts that they commented on were not correctly transcribed. Everything you wrote was absolutely correct. You never said anything about Type1 being related to obesity! In fact you said the obesity epidemic is causing more cases of TYPE 2! And nowhere does it say anything about Type 1's dying in their sleep from low BG. The "in their sleep" part was added by the complainer! Do not apologize for what you wrote, you are absolutely right about your facts! Thanks for the article. I look forward to reading more.

Mar 7, 2013
by Anonymous
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Did you read this article?

Did you read this article? It doesn't seem so. I am a Type 1 diabetic and read the article. The excerpts that were commented on were not correctly transcribed. Everything written was absolutely correct. It never said anything about Type1 being related to obesity! In fact it said the obesity epidemic is causing more cases of TYPE 2! And nowhere does it say anything about Type 1's dying in their sleep from low BG. The "in their sleep" part was added by you! Get YOUR facts straight before you start going off on someone! The article was correct in everything it said about both types of diabetes.

Mar 7, 2013
by Anonymous
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she corrected the article -

she corrected the article - the original article had errors. You are reading the editted version. Thankyou Petslady for the corrections

Mar 7, 2013
by Anonymous
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You didn't notice the

You didn't notice the comment where she said she corrected the article. There were mistakes and after we pointed them out she was nice enough to correct them.

Mar 8, 2013
by Anonymous
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where do I find a trainer to

where do I find a trainer to train a dog to be a diabetic alert dog thanks

Mar 8, 2013
by Laurie Kay Olson
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From what I can find the

From what I can find the organizations who train these dogs do not work with existing pets. They use dogs that are specially selected to become service dogs.

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