Contrary to what most people believe, service dogs are not only valuable to individuals with physical disabilities but for those with medical conditions as well. If you have diabetes and require assistance, you can benefit greatly from having a diabetic service dog.
What are Diabetic Service Dogs?
Diabetic service dogs are service animals that have gone through specialized service dog training courses to assist people with diabetes or hypoglycemia unawareness. Hypoglycemia unawareness is a diabetes complication that makes a person oblivious to a severe drop in blood sugar levels. Someone with this condition does not experience the usual symptoms of low blood sugar.
Given how dogs are utilized in hunting for their sharp sense of smell, trainers learned how to make use of this skill to help individuals with diabetes. Diabetic service dogs are trained to detect the “smell” of changes in blood sugar that require medical attention. Once identified, the service animal immediately alerts its handler so the latter can respond accordingly.
What Types of Assistance Do Diabetic Service Dogs Provide?
Apart from alerting their owners of rising or lowering blood sugar levels, diabetic service dogs have also been known to offer the following benefits:
- Providing comfort to the owner
- Helping the handler to be more physically active
- Assisting the owner to be more independent and sociable
- Feeling of security and peace of mind for family members
What Training Courses Do Diabetic Service Dogs Receive?
While diabetic service dog training courses may differ depending on the training institution, it’s most helpful for this type of service animal to learn the following:
- Scent recognition – Diabetic alert dogs are trained to recognize specific smells connected with blood sugar levels. For instance, these animals learn to detect the fruity scent of ketones produced by someone who has an excessively high blood sugar level or the distinct smell of a person experiencing a hypoglycemic attack (low blood sugar level).
- Alert signals – Service dogs for people with diabetes are taught different reactions to alert their owners if their sugar level is too high or getting too low. Some of the signals may include:
- Biting a specific toy
- Jumping on the handler
- Sitting still while staring at the person
- Touching the person
- Life-saving skills – Diabetic service dogs can also learn skills that can save the life of their owner, such as:
- Warning other members of the family if the owner needs help
- Retrieving medication or other necessary items for the owner
- Getting a phone to ask for assistance
- Calling 911 with the help of a unique gadget
- Social behavior skills – Diabetic alert dogs are also taught proper social behavior skills so they can freely accompany their owners in public places.
While diabetic service dogs are not meant to replace regular blood sugar level checks by the person with diabetes, their value is still appreciated. At the very least, you will be more relaxed knowing that the dog will be there to warn you and be with you in cases of emergency. You will also have a companion dedicated to helping you enjoy your life.