Diabetic Alert Dogs can Detect Low Blood Levels of Sugar in their Owners

Man’s best friend, the dog can detect if blood sugar levels are out of balance. Diabetic Alert Dogs have been specially trained to alert their owners if their blood sugar levels are too low. Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) is potentially life threatening if it goes unnoticed. Now dogs can help to improve the quality of life in people with type 1 diabetes.

Dogs have a Powerful Sense of Smell

Dogs have a powerful sense of smell and can detect diseases or disease conditions in their owners. For their great sense of smell dogs also are used to find people who are missing.

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is mainly genetic in origin and is a very serious disease. Type 1 diabetes has  potentially dangerous consequences, especially if blood sugar levels drop too low or are too high. People, including children, have to have injections of insulin to keep their blood sugar levels in balance. These injections of insulin may be on a daily basis. However, sometimes the insulin can lower sugar in the blood to dangerously low levels and the diabetic must eat some sugar or they can become very ill and even die. On the other hand, sometimes the amount of insulin is not enough to lower blood sugar levels to a normal level and then the diabetic needs to take more insulin. Diabetics are faced with an ongoing major challenge to keep their blood sugar levels in balance. To see more about diabetes and prediabetes see our blog post from November 2, 2018.

Study Showed that Diabetes Alert Dogs Succeeded to Detect 83% of Low Blood Sugar Incidents

Results of a study published January 15, 2019 in PLOS ONE by researchers from the University of Bristol Veterinary School and Medical Detection Dogs UK showed that Diabetic Alert Dogs were able to alert their owners for 83% of low blood sugar incidents.

Medical Detection Dogs

Medical Detection Dogs are trained to detect minute odor changes in their owners that occur as a result of changes in their bodies.

Diabetic Alert Dogs

Diabetic Alert Dogs are Medical Detection Dogs that have been trained to alert their diabetic owners if their blood sugar levels are too low.

Bio-detection Dogs

Bio-detection Dogs are trained to detect odors that can diagnose specific diseases like cancer. The dogs sniff breath, urine, feces or skin swabs.

Breeds of dogs who Participated in the Study

  • Retriever first generation crosses (e.g. Golden x Labrador Retriever or Curly Coat x Labrador Retriever; n = 12)
  • Labrador Retrievers (n = 6)
  • Bichon Frise (1)
  • Cocker Spaniels (2)
  • Poodle (1)
  • Poodle cross (1)
  • Staffordshire Bull Terrier (1)
  • English Springer Spaniel (1)
  • Yorkshire Terrier (1)

Five of the dogs actually belonged to their owners and some were provided to the families by Medical Detection Dogs. It takes about 18 months after applying to receive a dog. Some owners had noticed that their dogs seemed to know when they were not well and their sugar levels were not in balance and so they sent their own pets for special training.

More Research is Needed

The researchers claim that more research is needed. They found some differences in the way that some of the dogs responded. For instance, two of the 27 dogs apparently made mistakes in more than half of their alerts.

Long-term Skilled Nursing Care

If you or your loved one have type 1 or type 2 diabetes and are in need of a short-term rehab or long-term skilled nursing, be sure to choose a facility like the Van Duyn Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing that offers expert skilled nursing at the hands of a warm and caring staff.


It is wonderful to see how man’s best friend can help people and children with serious diseases like type 1 diabetes.

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