Dogs Trained to Detect Insulin Levels of Diabetes Patients

Guess they aren’t called “man’s best friend” for nothing. From providing human companionship to helping owners chase away burglars, dogs have proven themselves helpful to society time and again. Now we got dogs that can sniff out when the blood sugar levels of their diabetic owners are at dangerous levels.

A new study by the University of Bristol in partnership with the Medical Detection Dogs has found that dogs can potentially improve the lifestyle of people afflicted with Type 1 diabetes by helping monitor their blood levels in a non-invasive way.

Trained dogs can alert their owners on the changes on their blood sugar by licking their faces or fetching their medicinal kits. Surely, this is more pleasant than using needled blood sugar test kits.

Most diabetic patients use finger pricking monitors multiple times a day to check and regulate their blood sugar levels. This is to avoid possible hypoglycaemic and hyperglycaemic episodes which can potentially lead to unconsciousness or even death if left untreated.

83 Percent Accuracy

The researchers tested 27 trained dogs in 4000 cases of hypo and hyperglycaemic episodes. They kept logs detailing blood records of the pet owners every time the dog was alerted. Results revealed that the dogs got them correct 83 percent of the time.  The study was published in the medical journal PLOS One.

The dogs can help raise the awareness of the owners, especially for potential out-of-range episodes and encourage them to take appropriate action, such as administering insulin or eating high-glucose foods.

Dr. Nicola Rooney, lead author of the study said there are previous studies on the use medical detection dogs to detect hypoglycemia. However, this is the first time a large scale study has been made.

“Our research shows a dog’s effectiveness is affected by the individual dog and its connection with its human partner. Since the usage of such dogs is growing, it’s important that any dogs used for these purposes are professionally trained, matched and monitored by professional organizations like Medical Detection Dogs. It’s also vital that research continues both to assess true efficacy and determine ways to optimize their performance.”

Dr. Rooney, Bristol Veterinary School, 

Medical Detection Dogs

Since 2008, a charity organization named Medical Detection Dogs has been researching and training dogs to help fight against life-threatening diseases like cancer. The dogs were trained by letting them find the odor of cancer from urine samples, breath, and swabs of patients. With this, they would be able to detect minute changes in the condition of patients based on their personal odor and alert them of an impending medical situation.

Medical Detection Dogs are branching to other diseases including Parkinson’s disease, malaria, bacterial infections and most recently, diabetes.

All diseases are linked to certain biochemical reactions in the body which causes a change in odor. Although these subtle changes might not be detected by doctors, dog, with their superior smelling ability can.

“Our dogs also serve the wider medical community by offering proactive solutions that are natural, non-invasive and have been shown to provide countless psychological benefits. As our natural companions, and with a highly refined sense of smell, why shouldn’t they be able to detect changes in our personal health?”

Dr. Claire Guest, Chief Executive and co-founder of Medical Detection Dogs