Millions of Americans suffer from diabetes, having to build their lives around their illness. Diabetes is a constant tight-wire walk, requiring frequent blood-testing and carefully monitoring one’s blood sugar levels at all times, which in turn requires a careful dietary balancing act. But for people suffering from Type 1 Diabetes, there’s a new weapon in the battle against their disease. A weapon with four legs and a wagging tail.
Dogs4Diabetics is a non-profit company that trains and provides medical alert assistance dogs to people suffering from Type 1 Diabetes. The company trains these dogs to detect the changes in scent given off by diabetics who go are experiencing hypoglycemia, which is low blood sugar. While these changes in smell are completely undetectable by humans, dogs, with their acute senses of smell, are able to detect them.
The company was incorporated as a non-profit in California in 2005 and has been training dogs ever since. Most of the dogs they trained are animals who had previously been trained to act as guides for the blind, which have been repurposed to serve as medical alert animals. The dogs come to the program having been trained to be service animals since they were eight weeks old, which allows them to adapt more readily to their new lives detecting blood sugar changes in their owners.
The dogs are quite accurate in their ability to predict hypoglycemia, and their owners report being very happy to have a companion with whom to share their burden. Many diabetics find it difficult to deal with their disease around family and friends who don’t have the same problem and who may not be able to to truly empathize with their situation. One of the best parts of having an alert dog, they say, is the non-judgmental companionship they provide, not only helping to recognize potential health problems before they happen, but also happily sharing in the experiences of their owners.
Unlike people, the animals never get tired of helping their owners, and they never seem judgmental or angry about missed insulin shots or other lapses on the part of their human wards. Besides the obvious practical advantages they offer, they also provide a loving and undying loyal companion to act as emotional support for their owners. The combination of professional training and innate love make for an excellent partner.