Dogs can sniff low blood sugar levels.
Scientists have found that dogs can be trained to alert their diabetic owners if their blood sugar levels are dangerously low.
The specially trained ‘glycaemia alert dogs’ could accurately and consistently detect the signs of low/high blood sugar in their owners, the study, led by academics at the University of Bristol investigated.
Dogs can act as a reliable early-warning system for diabetes patients, researchers said. Canines that are trained to respond to their owners' hypoglycaemia could offer a very effective way to alert diabetic patients of impending lowered blood sugars.
Hypoglycemia is a medical emergency that involves an abnormally diminished content of glucose in the blood. Researchers believe dogs use their acute sense of smell to detect changes in the chemical composition of their owner's sweat or breath to respond to glycaemic control.
17 dogs were trained to alert their owners when their blood sugars were out of target range. While some dogs had been specifically chosen for their potential to work as ‘glycaemia alert dogs’, mostly donated to and trained by charity, others were clients’ pets which had been trained in the natural place.
The findings showed that since obtaining their dog, all seventeen clients studied reported positive effects including reduced paramedic call outs, decreased unconscious episodes and improved independence.
Owner-recorded data showed that dogs alerted their owners, with significant, though variable, accuracy at times of low and high blood sugar. "Despite considerable resources having been invested in developing electronic systems to facilitate tightened glycaemic control, current equipment has numerous limitations," said Dr Nicola Rooney, the study's lead author and a research fellow in the University's School of Veterinary Sciences.
"These findings are important as they show the value of trained dogs and demonstrate that glycaemia alert dogs placed with clients living with diabetes afford significant improvements to owner’s well-being including increased glycaemic control, client independence and quality-of-life and potentially could reduce the costs of long-term health care," Rooney said.
"Some of the owners also describe their dogs respond even before their blood sugars are low but as they start to drop, so it is possible that the dogs are even more effective than this study suggests," Rooney said.
The findings were published in the journal PLOS ONE.
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