Diabetic Alert Dogs are lifesavers for type 1 diabetes patients, specifically when they are hypoglycemic unaware, meaning that they don’t experience the usual symptoms associated with low blood sugar (shakiness, sweating, etc.). Research has shown that dogs can detect low blood sugar using the smell of sweat alone. Dogs are typically very reliable and accurate when detecting this, with rates of up to 90% accurate. For people living with diabetes, this is a life-saver and takes away some of the stress and worry in caring for this illness.
How diabetic service dogs work Diabetes alert dogs are trained to notice when their owner is experiencing low blood sugar. They then alert their owner by placing their paw on their owner. If sleeping, the dog may be trained to awake the owner, and in the event that they do not awake, the dog may awake another family member. The cost of the training for diabetic alert dogs is quite high. Many organizations now exist to help diabetics afford a dog.
Dr. Wolf A family physician and diabetic himself, Steve Wolf is a proponent of diabetic alert dogs. After he experienced a hypoglycemic event while driving, the doctor looked into getting a guide dog and bought Kermit. Kermit has assisted Dr. Wolf since then, keeping him aware of his glucose levels and cheering up his patients. One day, Kermit displayed intelligent disobedience by refusing to get in the car to go home from work. Dr. Wolf took the hint and checked his glucose. He found it was low and was able to take measures to compensate it before driving. Diabetic alert dogs work constantly and do whatever they can to help their owners.
Mark Reufenacht The first person to train a diabetic alert dog was Mark Reufenacht. Reufenacht is a forensic scientist who also has type 1 diabetes. He had the idea that if dogs could detect bombs and drugs, they might be able to detect blood sugar levels. He researched extensively before training the first diabetic alert dog, Armstrong. He founded an organization called Dogs 4 Diabetics and now works in his free time to run it. His goal is to give diabetics a tool to help control their diabetes. The organization gives dogs away for free to qualified applicants. Reufenacht’s organization has a long waitlist of patients hoping to get a guide dog.
For families of diabetics, a diabetic alert dog relieves the worry and sleeplessness of living with a diabetic. Sugar levels may drop suddenly while a diabetic is sleeping, meaning that they may simply slip into a coma without waking up. Although glucose monitors that can be worn constantly may have the ability to alert in the case of dangerous glucose levels, their accuracy is not great. They may also have delayed results, meaning that a diabetic could have a complication by the time the monitor shows dangerous glucose levels. Furthermore, a monitor can beep, but it can’t get help, a glucose kit and food or paw the person’s chest until he/she wakes up. Diabetic alert dogs are super pets and life savers for those living with type 1 diabetes.
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