Medical detection dogs help diabetics regulate insulin levels

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medical detection dogs

New research from the UK has found that the best trained alert dogs have the potential to vastly improve the quality of life of people living with type 1 diabetes.

As reported in PLOS One, on average trained dogs alerted their owners to 83 per cent of hypoglycaemic episodes in over 4,000 hypo- and hyper-glycaemic episodes that were examined. A hypoglycaemic episode is where blood sugar drops dangerously low and if left untreated, can lead to unconsciousness or even death.

In their study, researchers from the University of Bristol assessed the reliability of 27 trained glycaemia alert dogs, whose owners provided six to 12 weeks continual worth of blood records detailing every time the dog was alerted.

Medical Detection Dogs train pet dogs to respond to the odour of human disease and help owners live with life-threatening diseases. Familiar with their owners, dogs are conditioned to respond with alerting behaviours when their owners’ blood sugar levels fall outside a target range.

Encouraged by the alerting behaviour of their pet dog, if such out-of-range (OOR) episodes occur, the patient can take appropriate action, usually by administering insulin or eating to retain the right glucose levels.

The findings confirm that alert dogs can help type 1 patients regulate their blood sugars in a non-invasive way and avoid the risks of hypoglycaemic episodes and hyperglycaemia.

“We already know from previous studies that patients’ quality of life is vastly improved by having a medical detection dog,” lead author Dr Nicola Rooney said. 

“However, to date, evidence has come from small scale studies. Our study provides the first large-scale evaluation of using medical detection dogs to detect hypoglycaemia.”

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