Dogs sniff out diabetes
Posted October 2, 2008
Wagram, N.C. — Dogs that can sniff out bombs and drugs can also sense abnormal sugar levels in humans – helping people with diabetes.
Some Type 1 diabetics are hypoglycemic unaware, meaning that they can slip into a sugar low and diabetic shock without knowing it. They need someone to rescue them with something sweet, such as juice.
That's where specially trained dogs come in, like Raquel, a black lab who was an unwanted puppy.
"She was a rescue dog. They got her from the pound," said Danielle Dean, of Wagram, who is a Type 1 diabetic.
Raquel now helps Dean as a service dog, sniffing out her owner's blood sugar level. If the lab thinks Dean's level is low or high, she will alert her owner.
"She has to see me testing before she'll stop alerting me," Dean said. She also keep Raquel's pack full of juice boxes, in case she needs a jolt of sugar.
One test showed Deans' blood sugar level at 180, meaning that she needs more insulin. The danger mark for high blood sugar levels is 190.
On the other end, a level of 90 or below means that Dean needs sugar to keep from slipping into dangerous diabetic shock.
Raquel gave another service to Dean when she started acting strange around her 6-year-old daughter, Faye, about a month ago.
"Faye was yelling, 'Mommy, why is looking at me all the time? She won't go away?'" Dean said.
Dean did not know Faye was diabetic but took her daughter to get checked by the doctor.
"Raquel was the first one to know," Dean said. "Now she has double duty."
The diagnosis came early enough, so doctors can prevent Faye from developing more severe symptoms.
"I hate that she has it, but at least we caught it early enough that we can do something about it," Dean said.
Law requires all public places to allow access to service dogs, such as Faye. The lab comes to the first-grade class Dean teaches and also keeps tab on a student who is diabetic.
But Raquel, who Dean calls a "mellow" dog, gets free time whenever Dean takes off her pack.
"She has to have time to be a dog," Dean said.