By BarkUpToday Editors
Image credit: Pixaby
If you’re living with diabetes or have a loved one that has recently been diagnosed with diabetes, you probably have a lot of questions. You’re probably also asking yourself how you developed diabetes and if a diabetic alert dog can help you? The obvious question is; how can a dog tell when a person is hypoglycemic?
In this blog, we’re going to discuss how diabetes alert dogs can make your life a lot simpler, most especially if you have young children that need to be continuously reminded to check their blood sugar levels. While a person is sleeping, a diabetic alert dog (DAD) can detect changes in blood glucose levels and alert them.
The main perk is taking DAD’s everywhere you go in public during your day-to-day activities. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), businesses, state and local governments, and all non-profit organizations have to allow service animals to accompany people with disabilities. A DAD pooch becomes your shadow and best friend and watches out for you during the day and evening.
One of the most renowned veterinarians, Dr. Nicholas Dodman, tells us more about diabetic alert people. “With its superior sense of smell and good ability to read body language, a dog can be taught to react to different situations,” says Dr. Dodman, the author of several books on animal behavior, including If Only They Could Speak (W.W. Norton & Co., 2002). “A diabetes alert dog picks up on an odor, and he is trained when this particular smell is around to alert his owners, because he will get a food treat.” (1)
Research shows that diabetic detection dogs are very accurate and help check blood glucose levels. You’ll hear stories of how these loyal dogs have saved a life by pawing, whining, and alerting people with diabetes when their sugar levels have dropped dangerously low.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes mellitus refers to a group of metabolic diseases characterized by hyperglycemia caused by defects in insulin secretion, insulin action, or both. Diabetic chronic hyperglycemia is associated with long-term kidney damage, dysfunction, and various organ failure, especially the eyes, kidneys, nerves, heart, brain, and blood vessels.
There are several pathogenic processes involved in the development of diabetes. These include autoimmune destruction of the pancreas’ B-cells with resulting insulin deficiency to metabolic abnormalities and inflammation that result in insulin resistance. Diabetes is a severe and chronic disease that affects adults and children.
Diabetes has no cure, and patients need to monitor blood sugar and, often, insulin. Although insulin is sometimes necessary for the treatment of diabetes, it may result in hypoglycemia, a condition where blood sugar drops. Low blood sugar is as dangerous as high blood sugar, thus making the need for blood sugar monitoring all the more critical.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) adds that there are 88. million Americans with one in three having prediabetes, and that more than 84% of them don’t know that they have it. Prediabetes raises the risk for type two diabetes, stroke, and heart disease. The CDC says that if you adopt a healthy lifestyle change plan, you can reverse it.
Although both type 1 and type 2 diabetes have different causes, there are two essential things to keep in mind. You can inherit a predisposition to diabetes with environmental factors coming into play and triggering it off. The good news is that if you’ve been prediagnosed with diabetes mellitus, you can work on a healthy lifestyle plan with your doctor to reverse it.
Type 1 Diabetes
This is sometimes referred to as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes. It occurs when the body’s immune system destroys the pancreas’ cells responsible for making insulin (the hormone that balances glucose levels).
Patients with Type 1 DM will need insulin to survive. Type 1 diabetes usually originates from a genetic predisposition to immune dysfunction combined with environmental influences, commonly a viral infection. Once this is triggered, the inflammatory system’s significant components go about destroying pancreatic cells that produce insulin. Symptoms usually occur quickly compared to other types of diabetes. Today, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) advises the following:
. Screenings for anyone with a body mass index of over 25 (23 for Asian Americans)
. Blood sugar screening for people over 45 followed by triannual screenings
. Patients prone to gestational diabetes should be screened every three years.
. Prediabetic patients need to be screened yearly.
A significant worry with type 1 diabetes is that blood sugar can drop precipitously low resulting in unconsciousness. (diabetic coma) Diabetic alert dogs will have a behavioral reaction to this either by barking and whining, nuzzling or licking, jumping on top of the person, and even staring intently at the person.
Some dogs may even tremble excessively when blood sugar starts dropping during a hypoglycemic attack. Continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) may be unreliable and may sometimes not give proper readings. That said, DAD’s do so much for people with diabetes in that they nudge and alert people when there is a change in their blood reading as it spikes up or plunges.
Diabetes alert dogs also help with self-confidence and independence in children and help young adults with companionship and bring about a sense of calm. Let’s admit it! There’s nothing quite like having a furry best friend helping you out. These dogs can help you and do the same job as advanced medical testing.
Type 2 Diabetes
This occurs when insulin is made but not used correctly; this is also known as insulin resistance. Patients with Type 2 DM, which is believed to be due to autoimmune mechanisms, can be controlled by dietary changes, oral medications, and insulin. High blood sugar stemming from either type of diabetes may trigger severe organ damage like blindness, nerve damage, cardiovascular disease, and kidney damage.
Type 2 DM is ongoing, complicated, and can be contradictory. That said, cannabinoid treatment may be beneficial for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. A study from 2011 adds that “both central and peripheral aspects of endocannabinoid regulation of energy balance can become skewed and contribute to obesity, dyslipidemia, and type 2 diabetes. This also increases the possibility that CB1 antagonists may be beneficial for metabolic disorder treatments. Some studies demonstrate that certain non-psychotropic plant cannabinoids like CBD, CBDV, and THCV can retard B-cell damage in type 1 diabetes.
Long-term issues from diabetes may take a while to show up, yet the longer you take to control the situation, the more serious the complications can be. Keep in mind that diabetes can be life-threatening with numerous difficulties. Possible diabetes complications may include the following:
. Nerve damage
. Kidney damage
. Heart disease
. Foot damage
. Eye damage
. Hearing impairment
. Skin issues
. Alzheimer’s disease
Women with gestational diabetes have healthy babies, yet gestational diabetes can cause both mother and child problems if left untreated during pregnancy. Health complications to the baby may include the following:
. Low blood sugar
. Type 2 diabetes later on.
. Excessive growth will require a C-section birth.
. Death shortly before or after birth
. The mother may get preeclampsia with excessive protein in the urine.
. The mother may be prone to gestational diabetes in other pregnancies.
Living a healthy lifestyle is key to treating prediabetes, although type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented. That said, you can prevent type 2 and gestational diabetes with healthy lifestyle choices. Here’s what you can do to try to prevent type 2 diabetes:
. Exercise daily
. Consume healthy foods with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
. Lose those extra pounds and keep your weight in a healthy range
. If you’re pregnant, consult with your doctor before dieting.
There may be oral diabetes drug options available like metformin to help reduce type 2 diabetes risk.
Tests for All Types of Diabetes
The glycated hemoglobin (A1C) test does not require fasting and shows your blood sugar levels over the past 2-3 months. This test measures the blood sugar linked to hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying protein in red blood cells. If your blood sugar is high, then the hemoglobin count increases. Sometimes an A1C test may be inaccurate due to being pregnant or having a distinctive hemoglobin variant form. Your doctor may then use another test. This may include:
. Oral glucose tolerance test
. Fasting blood sugar test
. Random blood sugar test
If your doctor suspects type 1 diabetes, he may recommend a urine test to check for a byproduct produced from muscle and fat tissue for energy. This is because the body does not have enough insulin to use the available glucose called ketones. There is also another test that he will run to check for malignant immune system cells that are associated with type 1 diabetes. These are called autoantibodies.
Best Dog Breeds for DAD’s
Breeds that are even-keeled in temperament and that work well in all conditions make for good service dogs. Service dogs need to fulfill the needs of a person with diabetes. Meet Jedi, the hero dog that saves Luke, his 7-year old diabetic owner who struggles with potentially life-threatening blood sugar changes as he sleeps.
According to Huffington Post, the monitor said that Luke’s blood sugar levels were sufficient, yet Jedi could smell that Luke’s blood sugar had dropped dangerously low. Luke’s mum explained that “Jedi jumped off the bed, then back on again, though I felt him do this I didn’t wake up,” Luke’s mom Dorrie wrote in a Facebook post that has since gone viral. “Then Jedi laid on me … I suddenly was fully awake and I knew there was an issue.” 4
As you can see, there are plenty of reasons to invest in a diabetic service dog. Here are a few dog breeds that rank in the top five for best diabetic service dog breeds.
. Labrador retriever
. Golden Retriever
. Australian Shepherd
If you have children that need regular testing, then a diabetic alert dog can help you manage your child’s diabetes and maintain their health. Keep in mind that there’s plenty of responsibility involved. This includes the following:
. Veterinary/ dental care
. Ongoing dog training
. Food & supplement costs
. Dog toys/ accessories/dog beds
. Grooming care costs
. Regular daily exercise and care
Diabetic alert dogs are service dogs that offer long-term care with their ability to detect hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia; new research by N. J. Rooney adds that diabetic alert dogs can accurately see both low and high blood sugar and that they’re making a real difference in people’s lives. The research demonstrates that people with diabetes with alert dogs showed the following:
. Fewer unconscious episodes
. Improved independence
. Decreased health care costs
. Enhanced quality of life
. Less anxiety
. Fewer calls to paramedics
Diabetic Alert Dog Fundamentals Program
Image credit: Pixaby
This course is designed to get your furry best friend affordably trained as a diabetic alert dog. It’s a reasonably priced intensive course with a cost of close to $5000. The course is designed to teach your dog the necessary skills of obedience, public access exposure, and an introduction to scent detection with an active paw alert signal.
Diabetic Alert Dogs of America uses positive dog training methods to train your dog. This course is terrific in that it offers over 100-hours of one-on-one training with a specialized Diabetic Alert Dogs of America trainer. Dogs need to have stable temperaments and free of aggression and anxiety. This is a board and train program that lasts for a month, so it’s well worth every penny. Diabetic Alert Dogs of America (2) adds that the program includes the following:
- Over 100 hours of intense positive Service Dog Training
- Obedience Training including the use of 20 voice and hand commands
- Public Service exposure
- Beginning Scent Recognition and Active Alert start
- A Diabetic Alert Service Dog manual
- A Service Dog in training vest
- A Diabetic Alert Dogs of America Fundamentals Certificate
- A training dog collar
- A flat buckle collar
- A Service Dog coupler lead
- A bag of motivational dog treats
- A bag of Fromm premium dog food
- A logo tote bag
- Temperament evaluation
- One day of private training and demonstrations
- A lifetime of support and training assistance from our excellent trainers
- Unlimited lifetime discounted training
How Are Diabetes Alert Dogs Trained?
If you’re passionate about dogs, you’ll probably want to get involved in some aspect of the training to make sure that you know how to work with your service dog. According to Canine Partners for Life (CPL), dogs are trained to sniff out low blood sugar levels early before becoming dangerously low.
Because there are different smells associated with other blood sugar levels, an applicant has to sample their saliva on dental cotton when their blood sugar is 70. This is a sample that’s always used during training. At the final training stages, the trained diabetic alert dog can detect its owner’s sample saliva scent. When the service dog is fully prepared to help its diabetic owner, the new team will attend a registered campus for a 2.5-week personalized training course.
Medical Response Dogs
There are two types of diabetes service dogs, Medical Response Dogs and Diabetic Alert Dogs. The Medical Response Dogs are specifically trained to respond to low and high blood sugar level symptoms, including loss of consciousness, fatigue, and seizure-like behavior. These dogs will notify you and others if there’s a change in your blood sugar level.
The Medical Response Dog will also retrieve limited supplies like food, emergency kits, or drinks. Whereas the Diabetic Alert Dogs, also known as DADs, are specifically trained to sniff out chemical changes in the body (compounds) when the body’s blood sugar is too high or low.
DADs play an essential role by alerting their owners of dangerous blood sugar levels before they become symptomatic. Most beautiful dogs include breeds like the Labrador retriever, Golden retriever, mixed-sporting breeds, and even Poodles. People with diabetes have a different scent associated with either hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia. These scents are taught to these service dogs so that they can respond to them. Here’s the take on how diabetic alert dogs can save your life:
. DAD’s can retrieve diabetes test kits or medications
. Alert person if their blood sugar is dropping
. Provide support while walking or after a fall
. DAD’s can carry objects
. Open & close doors, drawers, cabinets
Diabetic Alert Dogs (DAD)
Diabetic alert dogs have an incredible sense of smell and are trained to alert their owners when their blood sugar levels are out of range. Diabetes is a severe and chronic disease that affects the body’s ability to control or regulate blood sugar levels. It can affect children, teenagers, and older adults. Having a diabetic alert dog can help in detecting hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia. Diabetic Alert Dogs of America are specially trained to alert handlers ahead of time of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) or high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) before it’s too dangerous.
Changes in blood sugar are a common side effect of insulin therapy, and diabetic alert dogs help people distinguish between high and low blood sugar. Diabetic alert dogs are trained to alert you to treat your blood sugar level condition while you’re still okay to do so.
Organic compounds found in exhaled breath change with high or low blood sugar levels. Diabetic alert dogs are trained to react to the smell of these compounds, and they can do so because they can sense the change in saliva or sweat and visual cues. Some studies show that DAD’s will improve a patent’s quality of life, well-being, independence, and physical activity levels.
There are many reasons to adore these beautiful dogs, not only because they can become your best friend, but also because they’re so smart and love you unconditionally. With diabetes, either hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia, patients may have long or short-term complications. Diabetes service dogs are there to help 24/7! That said, many insurance companies, unfortunately, don’t cover this cost.
Diabetic alert dogs help children with diabetes gain independence as they grow up. 4 Paws helps families dealing with insulin-dependent Type-1 diabetes. These dogs are trained to smell chemical body changes that occur with diabetes when the insulin level changes. This is because as the body releases chemicals, the typical body scents change.
Usual symptoms of type 1 diabetes include sweating, shaking, and confusion from low blood sugar levels. When blood sugar levels drop to exceedingly low levels, patients may experience seizures and even go into a coma. Diabetes service dogs help prevent this with their heightened sense of smell that makes them fantastic hunters.
Diabetic alert dogs are trained using scent-based work to respond to the body’s chemical changes before any adverse medical reactions can occur. The dog will alert the parents or caregiver to check the blood sugar level and take action. Some diabetic alert dogs are specifically trained to work with children and provide plenty of comfort to them. By doing so, the child gains self-confidence, companionship, and self-esteem. These dogs also provide a huge distraction during the medical procedures needed.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, service dogs can only be placed in homes where the patient has a recognized disability, resulting in a problem getting a service dog, most especially for patients with type 2 diabetes that are not insulin-dependent. Because under the Americans with Disabilities Act, there are numerous requirements and limitations for public service dogs.
That said, diabetes service dog organizations also train service dogs in various support skills to help patients at home and not in public. Diabetic service dogs are not a replacement for checking blood sugar. Patients still need to carefully monitor their blood sugar levels even with the aid of diabetic alert dogs.
Diabetic alert dogs need to have ongoing training to maintain their ability to detect high or low blood sugar levels. They also need to be monitored periodically to ensure that they still can accurately alert their owners to low or high blood sugar.
Additionally, diabetic alert dogs will not all have the same standard of accuracy. Other things to consider, like training method variations and some owners possibly having difficulties noticing a signal from their dogs. This is because signs are common dog behaviors like barking and licking. The cost of diabetic service dogs may be expensive, yet some non-profit training centers may provide diabetic alert dogs out free of charge or reduced price.
COVID-19 and Diabetes
Francesco Rubino, Professor of Metabolic Surgery at King’s College London, says that diabetes is one of the most prevalent chronic diseases. Today, researchers see the consequences between COVID-19 and diabetes. He adds that “given the short period of human contact with this new coronavirus, the exact mechanism by which the virus influences glucose metabolism is still unclear and we don’t know whether the acute manifestation of diabetes in these patients represent classic type 1, type 2 or possibly a new form of diabetes.” 2.
Additionally, the University of Melbourne says that the CoviDiab Registry project examines recently collected clinical data that helps them analyze insulin secretory capacity, insulin resistance, and autoimmune antibody status to understand how COVID-19 related diabetes develops, its natural history, and the best ways to manage this disease.
Benefits of Cannabinoids for Diabetic Patients
There are numerous benefits of CBD for diabetic patients. Cannabinoid treatment has been found to help with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Researchers in 2011 added that “both central and peripheral aspects of the endocannabinoid regulation of energy balance can become skewed and contribute to obesity, dyslipidemia, and type 2 diabetes, thus raising the possibility that CB1 antagonists might be used for the treatment of these metabolic disorders. Evidence is emerging that some non-psychotropic plant cannabinoids, such as CBD, CBDV, and THCV can be employed to retard B-cell damage in type 1 diabetes.” 3
A 2013 study was one of the most extensive studies on humans regarding cannabis, and metabolic processes found that marijuana use helped lower levels of fasting insulin and HOMA-IR(Homeostatic Model Assessment of Insulin Resistance) as well as smaller waist circumference.
The potential benefits of cannabinoids include the following:
.Stabilization of blood sugars
. Neuroprotective effects reduce nerve inflammation and reduce neuropathic pain by activating receptors in the body and brain.
. CBD acts as an antispasmodic agent to help with the relief of muscle cramps and pain from gastrointestinal issues
. CBD acts as a vasodilator to keep the blood vessels open and improve circulation, which helps lower blood pressure over time- suitable for diabetic patients.
. CBD may be beneficial by its anti-inflammatory action and may help reduce some of the arterial inflammation joints in diabetes.
One of the most important things that patients can do is work with a health care practitioner experienced with CBD or medicinal cannabis. This is important so that all dosage and delivery methods are fine-tuned specifically for the patient.
Past research from 2006 and 2008 indicates that CBD treatments may help reduce the manifestation of diabetes in animals induced with diabetes. Additionally, another 2010 study explains that CBD has significant therapeutic potential in treating diabetic complications and other cardiac health issues together with safety and tolerability. This is because CBD attenuates oxidative/nitrate stress, inflammation, cell death, and fibrosis.
Most of us are aware that diabetes is a global problem affecting as much as 30.3 million Americans. Regardless of what type of diabetes you have, it can lead to excess sugar in your blood. Glucose is essential to good health because it’s a vital energy source for cells that make up muscles and tissues. Glucose is also your brain’s primary source of fuel.
Whether you’re looking to adopt a new furry best friend with the specific idea of training him to be a diabetic alert dog or you’d like to see your dog trained to help with diabetic management, numerous organizations can help you. Diabetic alert dogs offer diabetics greater freedom to improve their quality of life. These beautiful dogs become your canine partners for life while preventing severe injuries from falls and other diabetic complications.
Making healthy lifestyle changes will help treat prediabetes, gestational and type 2 diabetes. You’ll also need to have your blood checked every year to ensure that you’ve not developed type 2 diabetes. Being a pet parent to a Diabetic Alert Dog will not only make your life much more comfortable but can help children with the added protection from their lifesaving abilities.
Thanks for visiting!
1.DTN Staff Writer. Diabetic Alert Dog University (Internet) DiabetesTalkNet. 2017 (cited February 20, 2021). Available from: https://diabetestalk.net/diabetes/diabetic-alert-dog-university
2.DAD Staff Writer. Diabetic Alert Dogs of America (Internet) The Diabetic Alert Dog Fundamentals Program. (cited February 20, 2021) Available
3.Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. What is Diabetes? (awarded February 20, 2021)
Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/diabetes.html
4.Suzie Strutner. Hero Dog Saves 7-year-old diabetic owner with just his nose. (cited February 20, 2021) Available from https://www.huffpost.com/entry/diabetes-service-dog_n_56e08586e4b0860f99d79c69