Dogs for Diabetes

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Dogs have long been trained to assist people with certain medical conditions, including mobility impairment and blindness. Now, diabetes is getting added to the list, at least experimentally.

Cancer and Bio-detection Dogs, a nonprofit center and sponsor of research in Aylesbury, England, is in the process of training 17 Diabetic Hypo-Alert Dogs to detect hypoglycemia in people with diabetes. Dogs’ sense of smell can be sharp enough to detect changes in blood glucose level before humans notice them, possibly a boon to people who frequently experience low blood glucose or who have hypoglycemia unawareness.

According to an article on the Today show Web site about the program, 65% of people with Type 1 diabetes reported in a survey (conducted last year at Queen’s University Belfast) that their dogs reacted when they had episodes of hypoglycemia. But no large trial has been conducted to study how early, and how effectively, dogs detect blood glucose changes, or to discern whether other technology — such as a continuous glucose monitor — might accomplish the same goals more effectively or at a lower cost. The chief executive of Cancer and Bio-detection Dogs maintains that dogs can detect blood chemical changes in the realm of parts per trillion, something that no external man-made sensor can do.

So how good — or crazy — is this idea? Watch this video to see it lampooned on The Colbert Report.

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Cheating Death – Diabetes Dogs, Chocolate Milk & Swearing in Pain
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor Mark Sanford

What do you think — would you be interested in a dog trained to detect hypoglycemia? If you have a dog, does it react when your blood glucose gets low? Would you rather rely on a medical device? Is this too small a function for a full-time medical dog? Leave a comment below!

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