Dogs could act as effective early warning system for patients with diabetes

Posted on August 22, 2013
Dogs could act as effective early-warning system for patients with diabetes

Dogs could act as effective early-warning system for patients with diabetes
Gemma and medical alert dog ‘Polo’. Credit: Medical Detection Dogs

Dogs that are trained to respond to their owners’ hypoglycaemia could offer a very effective way to alert diabetic patients of impending lowered blood sugars. The findings, published in the journal PLOS ONE, is the first academic study to assess whether trained dogs could be used as a reliable early-warning system to monitor glycaemia control.

The Company of Animals-funded study, led by academics at the University of Bristol, investigated whether specially trained ‘glycaemia alert dogs’ could accurately and consistently detect the signs of low/high blood sugar in their owners and alert them when levels were reported to be outside their target range.

A total of seventeen dogs which have been trained by Medical Detection Dogs to alert their owners when their blood sugars were out of target range were studied. While some dogs had been specifically chosen for their potential to work as a ‘glycaemia alert dog’, mostly donated to and trained by the charity, others were clients’ pets which had been trained in situ.

The research team collected data from the dogs owners’ that allowed them to assess objectively whether trained dogs reliably respond to their owners’ hypoglycaemic state, and whether owners experienced tightened glycaemic control, and wider psychosocial benefits.

The findings showed that since obtaining their dog, all seventeen clients studied reported positive effects including reduced paramedic call outs, decreased unconscious episodes and improved independence. Owner-recorded data showed that dogs alerted their owners, with significant, though variable, accuracy at times of low and high blood sugar.

 

Read more at: Phys.org