Research from the University of Bristol shows that dogs have a special talent for detecting low blood sugar levels in their owners and alerting them of the danger.
Dogs have been used for a number of years to help detect hypoglycemia in patients with type 1 diabetes that have lost their awareness of when their blood glucose levels are too low. However, the effectiveness of dogs’ ability to detect changes in blood glucose levels had yet to be studied until now.
Dogs which have been trained to detect low sugar levels in patients are known as ‘hypo alert dogs’ or ‘glycaemia alert dogs’.
The University of Bristol worked with the Medical Detection Dogs charity which trains dogs to recognise signs of danger in people with diabetes as well as other health conditions such as Addison’s disease. The dogs used in the research were those that had been previously been trained by the Medical Detection Dogs charity before being placed with patients with diabetes or those that had been owned by the patient prior to being trained.
The study used patient recorded data to assess the ability of dogs to detect hypoglycemia (the state of having too low blood sugar levels). All seventeen dogs that were studied demonstrated an ability to improve quality of life for their owners, including helping to reduce ambulance call outs, reducing instances of unconsciousness as a result of severe hypoglycemia and helping to improve blood glucose control.
Dogs featured in the study included Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retriever, Poodle, Cocker Spaniel, Collie Cross, Lurcher, Yorkshire Terrier and Labradoodles.
The study’s lead author, Dr Nicola Rooney stated: “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 well-being including increased glycaemic control, client independence and quality-of-life and potentially could reduce the costs of long-term health care.”

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