Getting Started – In order to train a low blood sugar detection dog, you will need to use positive reinforcement, never negative. Dogs are rewarded for providing the correct behavior and ignored when they do not respond appropriately. Lots of treats, attention, toys, and play can be used for rewards.
- You will need to provide samples of low blood sugar scent in the absence of a person actually having a low blood sugar episode in order to provide the volume of training experience required to teach the dog to detect.
- Samples can be obtained by taking saliva samples with a cotton ball whenever a diabetic is having a low blood sugar episode, or swabs from sweat glands, such as in the underarms or feet.
These samples are then put in a zipper baggie and frozen for future use. These scent samples can be used in porous containers to teach the dog to respond to the scent. Initially, teaching a puppy to respond to low blood sugar scent may involve using a bowl and a colander to teach the puppy to put their nose up to the scent for a treat. Top
Can you train your own diabetic alert dog?
Train Your Own Diabetic Alert Dog Discover The Secrets of How To Train Your Own Diabetic Alert Dog! Learn how to TRAIN YOUR OWN DIABETIC ALERT DOG! Diabetic Alert Dogs help detect blood sugar swings in diabetics. Your Diabetic Alert Dog is trained to then ALERT YOU that there has been a drop in your blood sugar or that there has been a high spike.
Yes, now YOU can LEARN THE SECRETS to how to train your own current dog to help detect & alert you! Diabetic Alert Dogs help your detect blood sugar swings. Once your Diabetic Alert Dog has detected your blood sugar swing, they immediately ALERT YOU that there is a problem!
Would you like to learn how to train your own Diabetic Alert Dog? Until now, training your own Service Dog was incredibly challenging and almost impossible. Fortunately, NOW THERE IS AN EASY AND CONVENIENT WAY TO TRAIN YOUR OWN DIABETIC ALERT DOG! Many people are using their current dogs and teaching them how to detect and alert to their blood sugar swings using Companion Training’s proven techniques.
How do I make my dog a diabetic service dog?
No.2 How are Diabetic Service Dogs Trained? – The main way that dogs are trained to help diabetics is by training them around the person’s saliva in the dog’s early stages. A sample of saliva is taken from the diabetic when their blood sugar levels are at their risky point.
How long does it take to train a diabetic alert dog?
How long does the Training Process Take for A Diabetes Alert Dog? – CPL service dogs spend two years preparing for their working life. During the first year of training, the dogs live with volunteers to learn their basic obedience skills and to be socialized in a variety of public places.
Can untrained dogs detect diabetes?
Do dogs sense hypoglycaemia? – PubMed Aims: To summarize the current knowledge on the phenomenon of dogs, both trained and untrained, sensing hypoglycaemia and alerting their owners to it. Methods: Electronic databases were searched for all types of articles reporting on untrained or trained ‘diabetes alert’ dogs.
- Articles published up until December 2014 in the English or German language were included.
- Results: Several case reports and observational studies provide evidence that animals can perform at a level above that attributable to chance, and may reliably detect low diurnal as well as nocturnal hypoglycaemic episodes.
Behavioural changes in untrained dogs were reported during 38-100% of hypoglycaemic events experienced by their owners. The sensitivity and specificity of the performance of trained diabetes alert dogs sensing hypoglycaemia ranged from 22 to 100% and 71 to 90%, respectively.
Additionally, 75-81% of patients with diabetes who owned a trained dog reported a subsequent improvement in their quality of life. Nevertheless, the available data are limited and heterogeneous because they rely on low patient numbers and survey-based studies prone to recall bias. Conclusion: Further research is needed to confirm the preliminary data on the reliability and mechanism underlying the dogs’ abilities to detect hypoglycaemia, and its impact on patient outcomes.
: Do dogs sense hypoglycaemia? – PubMed
How much does it cost to train a dog for diabetes?
What is the cost? – The exact cost will depend on the particular organization and training program selected. But on average—an investment in a diabetic alert dog can cost anywhere from $8,000 to $20,000. There are non-profits that grant dogs for free and only require that you pay for your training with the dog.
Can Type 2 diabetics get a service dog?
Our Mission – To provide individuals and families that are challenged by Diabetes with world-class Service Dogs. These service dogs provide quality of life by creating independence, companionship, and lifesaving abilities. The true measure of our success is the individual lives that are saved or changed for the better as a result of our work.
- If you are not 100% satisfied with your Diabetic Alert Service Dog at the time of delivery, you do not pay! We are so confident that you will be pleased with our training, and overall service throughout the entire process, that we guarantee our results.
- Our intensive training programs are among the best in our industry.
We are 100% confident that our training and service will exceed your expectations.
How do diabetic alert dogs know?
Training – Diabetic alert dogs are trained to detect blood glucose changes using the saliva of diabetic patients. The diabetic person collects samples using gauze or dental cotton during a time when their blood sugar is just starting to get too low, or too high.
Can dogs smell low blood sugar?
Dogs to detect hypoglycemia – Some experts suggest that animals such as dogs can help detect hypoglycemia in patients. Researchers say that owing to their acute sense of smell, dogs may be able to detect changes in the composition of their owner’s sweat that occur when they are becoming hypoglycemic.
- Another theory is that visual cues such as the owner looking disorientated or trembling may alert the dog.
- Previous research has shown that dogs owned by individuals with diabetes exhibit behavioral changes in response to their owner’s blood sugar falling to below normal levels.
- Examples of these behaviors include nudging and licking their owner, especially around the mouth, and whining, barking, or howling.
How dogs can sniff out diabetes In March 2008, a consumer magazine published by the American Diabetes Association called Diabetes Forecast featured an article about medical assistance dogs that were trained to recognize hypoglycemic episodes and alert their owner.
- The dogs were trained at a center in California which places such dogs with people who have type 1 diabetes.
- The dogs are then trained to sense when a dangerous fall in the individual’s blood glucose levels is about to occur, allowing the owner to work together with the dog to prevent a hypoglycemic episode altogether.
It is not yet clear exactly how these dogs are able to sense the changes in their owners before an episode of hypoglycemia occurs; however, researchers believe that the dogs react to scents that are created when chemical changes occur in the body as a result of a glucose imbalance.
- Currently, in the United States, only a few centers exist for training assistance dogs to help diabetics.
- The training is time-consuming and costly, meaning only a minimal number of dogs are available to be paired with an owner.
- At one such center called “Dogs4Diabetes,” dogs are trained to become diabetic alert dogs and have been trained to sense and respond to identifiable changes in the blood chemistry that take place when their owner’s blood glucose level suddenly drops.
This alerts the owner that they need to treat their hypoglycemia before they start to become symptomatic. In order to train the dog, the animal is presented with various scents, one of which is the scent obtained from a diabetic person while they were experiencing a hypoglycemic episode.
The dog is then taught to find and pick out the hypoglycemic scent. As the dog learns to recognize that scent, it is trained to respond to its owner in certain ways, such as sitting and staring at the person, jumping on them, or touching them with their nose. Dogs such as labrador retrievers have more than 200 million sensors that can detect individual elements in parts per trillion.
This compares with the parts per million smell capability that can be detected by current technology. A rapid fall in blood glucose levels produces unique chemical elements that the dog can identify in a person’s breath or skin. Evidence suggests that these changes in a diabetic’s chemistry derived from sweat or breath occur 15 to 30 minutes before there is a measurable change in the blood sugar level that can be detected by a glucose monitor.
What breed of dogs are used for diabetic alert dogs?
| Many breeds can excel at being Diabetic Alert Dogs! While the breed is not the most important factor, certain breeds are more likely to succeed than other. The most successful breeds for any type of service work are: Golden Retrievers, Poodles, Labrador Retrievers, and Collies. There is a reason established organizations such as The Seeing Eye, Guide Dogs for the Blind, and Canine Companions for Independence use these breeds – they have experimented with other breeds but have found the “Fab 4” have the highest success rates. Below are other common breeds, and a few pros and cons of each. German Shepherds – these dogs are very smart and willing to learn. However, they need extensive socialization in order to prevent guarding tendencies. The breed is very prone to guarding but a DAD cannot ever growl or attempt to protect in any way, so there is a risk with using a German Shepherd as a Diabetic Alert Dog.
Australian Shepherds – these are very smart dogs as well but some are slightly sensitive to sounds or situations. Working line Australian Shepherds are very high drive and not suitable for service work because ti requires many hours of down time.Border Collies – Border Collies are brilliant, but not typically good candidates for diabetic alert work. They can be extremely sensitive to sounds and obsess over objects. They are extremely driven and will find entertainment if not provided with it at all times. Their weaknesses are similar to Australian Shepherds, except more extreme. Occasionally some show line Border Collies are suitable as service dogs, but working lines are not likely to be successful.Chihuahuas – While Chihuahuas are capable of smelling well enough to detect low and high blood sugars, their small size is not a good choice for Diabetic Alert work if going in public. Carrying a dog is not professional and should not be done in public with a service dog, but a dog as small as a Chihuahua will likely not be seen and is at more risk to be stepped on and become injured or cause fear of crowds. A slightly larger breed is a better choice.Bully breeds – Bully breeds (American Bulldog, American Pit Bull Terrier, Staffordshire Terrier, etc.) are very capable of smelling lows and highs and alerting. However a breed in this category will make your life more difficult. You will receive more access issues from businesses and the public will be more wary and nervous around your dog which may occasionally cause a scene. You are permitted to have a pit bull type dog as a DAD, but I would recommend choosing a breed that is less intimidating. Additionally, these dogs do often have guarding tendencies as well, increasing the risk of the dog washing out of service work.
For more details on breeds for DAD training, refer to our book, Diabetic Alert Dog Training Steps.
Are diabetic service dogs necessary?
– Not all people with diabetes may benefit from, or need, a diabetes service dog. Examples of people who could benefit from service dogs include:
those with hypoglycemia unawarenessthose who control their blood sugar using an insulin pump or injectionsthose who experience low blood sugar levels frequentlychildren who require frequent blood sugar testing at nightcollege students who are now living away from home and require additional support
If you or a loved one do not experience frequent episodes of hypoglycemia or you’re able to control your blood sugar with oral medications, you may not need the added expense and responsibility of a service dog. In terms of expenses, insurance companies may pay for the costs associated with a diabetes service dog.
How accurate are diabetes dogs?
Variability of Diabetes Alert Dog Accuracy in a Real-World Setting 1 Behavioral Medicine Center, University of Virginia Health System, Charlottesville, VA, USA Find articles by 1 Behavioral Medicine Center, University of Virginia Health System, Charlottesville, VA, USA Find articles by 1 Behavioral Medicine Center, University of Virginia Health System, Charlottesville, VA, USA Find articles by 1 Behavioral Medicine Center, University of Virginia Health System, Charlottesville, VA, USA Find articles by 1 Behavioral Medicine Center, University of Virginia Health System, Charlottesville, VA, USA Find articles by 1 Behavioral Medicine Center, University of Virginia Health System, Charlottesville, VA, USA Find articles by © 2017 Diabetes Technology Society Diabetes alert dogs (DADs) are growing in popularity as an alternative method of glucose monitoring for individuals with type 1 diabetes (T1D). Only a few empirical studies have assessed DAD accuracy, with inconsistent results. The present study examined DAD accuracy and variability in performance in real-world conditions using a convenience sample of owner-report diaries. Eighteen DAD owners (44.4% female; 77.8% youth) with T1D completed diaries of DAD alerts during the first year after placement. Diary entries included daily BG readings and DAD alerts. For each DAD, percentage hits (alert with BG ≤ 5.0 or ≥ 11.1 mmol/L; ≤90 or ≥200 mg/dl), percentage misses (no alert with BG out of range), and percentage false alarms (alert with BG in range) were computed. Sensitivity, specificity, positive likelihood ratio (PLR), and true positive rates were also calculated. Overall comparison of DAD Hits to Misses yielded significantly more Hits for both low and high BG. Total sensitivity was 57.0%, with increased sensitivity to low BG (59.2%) compared to high BG (56.1%). Total specificity was 49.3% and PLR = 1.12. However, high variability in accuracy was observed across DADs, with low BG sensitivity ranging from 33% to 100%. Number of DADs achieving ≥ 60%, 65% and 70% true positive rates was 71%, 50% and 44%, respectively. DADs may be able to detect out-of-range BG, but variability across DADs is evident. Larger trials are needed to further assess DAD accuracy and to identify factors influencing the complexity of DAD accuracy in BG detection. Keywords: blood glucose detection, diabetes alert dog, service dog, type 1 diabetes Self-monitoring of blood glucose (SMBG) is critical in many aspects of diabetes management, including the detection of hypoglycemia, calculating insulin bolus doses, and tracking overall glucose control. For daily SMBG, most individuals with type 1 diabetes (T1D) use glucose meters, with a growing minority using continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) devices. Although beneficial for diabetes management, these technologies are associated with a degree of burden, including finger sticks, sensor insertion, equipment care and cost, and time commitment. In addition, parents of children with T1D bear the emotional burden of worrying about hypoglycemic episodes, especially during the night when they are less able to monitor their child’s BG. For these reasons, many individuals with T1D and parents of children with T1D are turning to diabetes alert dogs (DADs) as a less burdensome and intrusive method of BG monitoring. Individual testimonials in popular media describe DADs as highly effective at detecting both hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia. These anecdotal stories are almost universally positive, with reports that DADs accurately detect hypoglycemia at least 90% of the time and, in some instances, are more accurate than BG meters and other current diabetes technology., Only a few scientific studies have attempted to test DAD accuracy and there are currently no industry standards for DAD training or performance. Our group conducted a survey of 36 DAD owners, 13 adults with T1D and 23 parents of children with T1D. These DAD owners reported varying levels of accuracy, with 36% reporting DAD alerts to every occurrence of hypoglycemia over the past month (100% accuracy) while another 36% reported that hypoglycemia occurred without an alert at least once each week. In terms of clinical and psychosocial benefits, respondents indicated improvements in glycosylated hemoglobin levels, frequency of severe hypoglycemia, fear of hypoglycemia, and quality of life after DAD placement. Two recent studies tested DAD accuracy under highly controlled experimental conditions, using perspiration samples taken from adults with T1D when BG levels were normal versus hypoglycemic. However, these studies produced contradictory results, with one concluding that trained DADs accurately discriminated hypoglycemia, and the other finding that DADs were not accurate. Given the clinical implications for people with diabetes, more research is needed to understand DADs’ ability to monitor BG levels and the possibility raised by our owner survey that accuracy across individual DADs may vary. In addition to controlled experimental trials in laboratory settings, it is also important to test accuracy in natural living conditions where individuals rely on their DADs to alert in response to BG extremes. Under real-world conditions, the use of DADs is a far more complex interactive process. Efficacy not only depends on the ability of the DAD to detect and alert to BG extremes, but also on the ability of the owner to accurately recognize the alert behavior. In another recent study, 8 DAD owners used “blinded” CGM for 1 week while recording DAD alerts. Results showed that DADs detected 36% of BG events < 70 mg/dl, with minimal predictive value of DAD alerts signaling hypoglycemia. However, because of the short duration of this study of only 8 individuals, there were only a total of 45 hypoglycemic episodes to analyze, with an average of 5.6 episodes per participant. Moreover, this study did not have enough data to address the question of whether DAD performance varied across individual dogs. The purpose of the present study was to examine DAD accuracy and variability in real-world conditions using a convenience sample of diaries kept by DAD owners following placement of a dog in the home. In these diaries, DAD owners recorded daily BG meter readings along with the occurrence of DAD alerts, which allowed a comparison of the concordance of extreme BG readings and alert behaviors. The hypothesis of the study was that signal detection analysis would show that DAD alerts were generally accurate but, based on our previous survey, that accuracy would vary across individual DADs. Participants were adult DAD owners with T1D and parents of children with T1D. The study tested DADs from one organization to control for some of the numerous variables that can potentially affect DAD performance, such as dog breed and training procedures across organizations. In this study all DADs were Labrador Retrievers who had been bred, raised, trained, and placed by the same organization. This organization utilizes a training and placement procedure in which puppies undergo several months of glucose detection training at their facility. At approximately 4-5 months of age, DADs are placed with their owners, where training continues with support and periodic home visits by training staff. As part of the training organization's quality control practices, DAD owners completed daily diaries for a period of time during the first year after home placement. These diaries required owners to record the date, time of day, all daily SMBG readings, occurrence of DAD alerts (yes/no), and a description of the alert behaviors. Owners were encouraged to record in diaries for several weeks or longer. The data used in the study were derived from recently completed diaries that had been returned to the training organization. Before sending diaries to the laboratory, the training organization deidentified all data; therefore, the only information available for participants was age and gender. Information on individual DAD characteristics, including current age and time since home placement, was available for 17 of the 18 participants in the final sample. Diaries were submitted for 27 DAD owners, four of whom were excluded due to too few entries (< 30 total) or low BG readings (< 4 entries with BG ≤ 5.0 mmol/L or 90 mg/dl). This reduced the likelihood of over- or underestimating DAD accuracy because of inadequate sample size (eg, a single low would yield a score of either 0% or 100% accuracy). Of the remaining 23 participants, four were excluded from analysis due to incomplete diaries (ie, only recording entries when the DAD alerted instead of at each BG check). One additional participant was excluded due to recording diary data in an idiosyncratic manner that made it infeasible to compare to other data. The final sample consisted of 18 DAD owners (44.4% female; 77.8% children), with adults ranging in age from 40 to 47 years (mean = 44.3 ± 4.4, median = 44) and children ranging in age from 2 to 15 years (mean = 9.1 ± 4.9, median = 8.5). DAD age ranged from 113 to 1437 days (mean = 237.2 ± 318.8, median = 134). Length of DAD placement in the homes ranged from 1 to 328 days (mean = 51.0 ± 83.5, median = 22). With the exception of two DADs who had been placed for approximately 6 and 12 months, the DAD had been in the home less than 3 months. Number of diary entries ranged from 34 to 505 (mean = 167.0 ± 146.3, median = 108) collected over a time period that ranged from 5 to 134 days (mean = 39.0 ± 35.0, median = 27). Alert behaviors were categorized, which yielded 26 single-word descriptors (eg, "paw" or "barked"; see for a complete list). In cases where DADs performed two behaviors to alert to the same BG reading, both were recorded. Number of different DAD alert behaviors reported ranged from 3 to 20 per participant (mean = 10.6 ± 5.2, median = 9.5). DAD Alert Behaviors, Frequencies, and True Positive Rates.
Analysis of DAD accuracy presents challenges because alerts are dichotomous data (alert/no alert) and, in contrast, BG readings are continuous data ranging from 1.1 to 33.3 mmol/L (20 to 600 mg/dl). For this reason, an approach based on signal detection theory was used to categorize diary entries.
First, a target BG range was set from 5.0 mmol/L to 11.1 mmol/L (90 mg/dl to 200 mg/dl). A wider hypoglycemic range was selected based on clinical considerations, including recommendations that individuals with diabetes not drive without self-treatment when BG is ≤ 5.0 mmol/L (90 mg/dl), as well as ensuring that alerts occurring in response to falling BG were captured.
Entries were then categorized into one of four accuracy classifications determined by BG value (within target range or not) and occurrence of DAD alert (yes/no):
Hits (BG outside target range; DAD alerted). To account for reports that DADs often signal owners ahead of BG extremes, entries with alerts ≤ 20 minutes before an out-of-range BG were also categorized as hits. Misses (BG outside of target range; no DAD alert ≤ 20 minutes prior to entry). False alarms (BG within target range; DAD alerted with no BG excursions ≤ 20 minutes after the entry). Correct rejection (BG within target range; no DAD alert).
Based on these classifications, we calculated four different measures to summarize DAD performance:
Overall sensitivity was computed as the percentage of out-of-range BG entries the DAD alerted to (hits) compared to the overall number of out-of-range BGs (hits + misses). Sensitivity was also calculated separately for low and high BG excursions. Overall specificity was computed as the percentage of in-target range BGs the DAD did not alert to (correct rejections) compared to the overall number of in-range BGs (correct rejections + false alarms). True positive rate (also known as “positive predictive value”) is computed as the percentage of Hits to the overall number of DAD alerts (hits + false alarms). Overall accuracy is computed as the percentage of accurate DAD responses (hits + correct rejections) to the total number of categorized entries (hits + correct rejections + false alarms + misses). Positive likelihood ratio (PLR) is computed as the ratio of sensitivity to (1 – specificity). Values > 1.00 signify that DAD alerts are more likely associated with out of range BG than in-target range BG.
lists the frequencies and proportions of hits, misses, false alarms, and correct rejections for individual DADs and the total sample. Across DADs, hits was the most represented category for the sample (mean = 38.2%), but this varied between individual DADs, ranging from 20% to 59%.
Total specificity was 49.3%, total true positive rate was 69.1%, and overall PLR was 1.12. This indicates that while the frequency of false alarms outnumbered correct rejections, the majority of DAD alerts corresponded to out-of-range glucose values. Frequency of DAD Signal Detection Categories.
These overall results, however, should be interpreted in the context of highly variable individual DAD performance. Sensitivity for all out-of-range BG readings ranged from 39.0% to 73.7% across individual DADs, low BG sensitivity from 33.3% to 100.0%, and high BG sensitivity from 29.4% to 76.9%. True positive rate ranged from 37.5% to 94.1%, while specificity ranged from 0.0% to 96.4%. Overall accuracy ranged from 30.9% to 73.8%. displays the number of DADs who achieved ≥ 60%, 65%, and 70.0% scores in their overall sensitivity, low/high sensitivity, true positive rate, and overall accuracy. As the table indicates, half of the DADs performed at ≥ 60% low BG sensitivity, with far fewer DADs performing this well in high BG sensitivity. PLR values ranged from 0.41 to 10.93, with 3/18 DADs at scores > 1.00. Number of DADs Achieving ≥ 60%, 65%, and 70% Accuracy.
|Overall accuracy||Overall sensitivity||Low BG sensitivity||High BG sensitivity||Specificity||True positive rate|
displays the type of alert behaviors reported by owners, the reported frequency of each alert behavior, the number of participants who reported each behavior, and the true positive rate for each behavior. Examining only those behaviors with ≥ 30 occurrences, the five behaviors with the highest true positive rate were sniffing (86.7%), scratching (82.7%), jumping (81.8%), pacing (79.3%), and other bodily contact (77.4%). The five behaviors with the lowest true positive rate were staring (54.0%), disobedience (56.5%), whining (60.3%), nose nudging (61.4%), and yawning (66.0%). This is the first study to compare recorded DAD alerts to actual BG readings in a real-world setting over an extended period of time averaging just over a month (range 5 to > 120 days). When data was analyzed across participants, the overall accuracy rate was 54%, with a true positive rate of 69%. Overall sensitivity was slightly higher for low BG readings compared to high BG readings. However, when sensitivity for low BG readings is examined closely, the rate of “missed” hypoglycemic readings was 40.8%. Sample PLR indicated that DAD alerts corresponded more frequently with out of range BG. Although CGM accuracy studies rarely report signal detection statistics, this value was substantially lower than results reported in one previous study of CGM accuracy. Taken together, the results across all participants do not support the belief that DADs are more accurate than diabetes technology. These findings, that DADs as a group are above 50% accuracy but not more accurate than glucose monitoring devices, are in alignment with the recently published article comparing alerts to CGM readings. A different picture emerged, however, when data was analyzed separately for each individual DAD, showing a great deal of variability in detection accuracy. True positive rates ranged from 37% to 94% and the proportion of DADs achieving ≥ 60%, 65%, and 70% true positive rates was 71%, 50%, and 44%, respectively. More DADs showed ≥ 60%, 65%, and 70% accuracy in terms of sensitivity to low BG values as compared to sensitivity to high BG. PLR was generally low, with 83% of DADs at values < 1.0, but a few participants reported accuracy equivalent to the CGMs in the Wentholt et al study. These findings suggest that some DADs are more accurate than others, especially at low BG detection, and that accuracy rates may be comparable to current diabetes technology. However, given this variability in performance it appears to be important to objectively test the accuracy of individual DADs prior to home placement. Based on individual variability of accuracy across DADs, it is important to consider potential factors that contribute to these observed differences. In this study, all DADs were Labrador Retrievers, bred and trained by one organization in an attempt to control for breed, genetic factors, and training technique, all of which vary greatly across different training organizations and programs. As part of their placement procedure, this organization places DADs in homes after a few months of initial training, then makes periodic visits to the home to continue training over the first year. Thus, it could be argued that the DADs tested in this study were younger dogs with limited training which may be associated with lower accuracy; however, this does not address the observed variability in accuracy. One contributor could simply be that dogs differ in innate ability or level of skill in BG detection, even within the same breed. Another possibility, indicated by this data set, may be the specific alert behavior the DAD exhibits and/or the DAD owner utilizes as an alert signal. Certain DAD behaviors (eg, pawing) appeared to be associated with higher true positive rates while other behaviors (eg, staring), were associated with lower accuracy. Another important factor to consider is the ability of the DAD owner to recognize true alert behaviors, and to distinguish these from DAD behaviors that are not related to BG values. DAD owners may also vary in skills related to training, such as appropriate reinforcement for alert behaviors. Studies in highly controlled experimental settings have the benefit of bypassing the influence of such owner skills;, however, findings may not necessarily transfer to real-world settings. Additional methodological limitations exist in this study. The data was based on self-reported diaries and nonmasked glucose data, which one could argue might bias the findings. For example, DAD owners could retroactively note an alert behavior based on an out of range SMBG value. However, these results are not indicative of biased reporting that make DADs appear to be more accurate, as rates were generally lower than owners' reported beliefs about their DADs' accuracy in a previous study. Another methodological problem is that the available BG readings were discrete variables recorded either in response to an alert (or other signals such as physical symptoms) or as part of routine self-monitoring. This means that we could not obtain an accurate measure of "missed" out-of-target BG readings or "correctly rejected" in-target readings, which could lead to overestimation of sensitivity and underestimation of specificity. To remedy this shortcoming, we are currently conducting a study using masked CGM to assess DAD accuracy in the real world. Finally, this study was observational in nature and not truly experimental, so it cannot systematically assess whether DADs were truly performing better than a group of untrained dogs would perform. Related to this, though a strength of the study is the high level of control afforded by use of a single training organization, results may not be generalizable to alternative DAD training and breeding procedures. This study provides preliminary evidence that some DADs are relatively accurate at detecting BG fluctuations outside of the target range, especially low BG levels. In contrast, other DADs showed very poor accuracy. Importantly, these findings also suggest that DAD accuracy is likely a complex process that can be affected by numerous factors, including the interactions between the DAD and its owner. From a clinical perspective, it will be important to develop objective procedures to assess DAD accuracy to ensure that individuals with diabetes have the information they need to determine the degree to which their DADs' alerts are reliable and valid. In the current market and industry of medical detection dogs, there are no regulatory guidelines for determining DAD accuracy and, as the number of people using DADs continues to grow, evaluation and ultimate standardization of these factors are essential. Abbreviations: BG, blood glucose; CGM, continuous glucose monitor; DAD, diabetes alert dog; PLR, positive likelihood ratio; SMBG, self-monitored blood glucose; T1D, type 1 diabetes. Declaration of Conflicting Interests: The author(s) declared the following potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: LGF has previously served as a consultant for Dexcom, Inc. All other authors report no disclosures. Funding: The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: Research was supported by NIH-NIDDK grant 1R21DK099697-01.1. Gonder-Frederick LA, Shepard JA, Grabman JH, Ritterband LM. Psychology, technology, and diabetes management, Am Psychol,2016; 71 ( 7 ):577-589.2. Monaghan MC, Hilliard ME, Cogen FR, Streisand R. Nighttime caregiving behaviors among parents of young children with type 1 diabetes: associations with illness characteristics and parent functioning, Fam Syst Health,2009; 27 ( 1 ):28-38.3. Spake A. Could a dog save your life? No one knows for sure how they do it, but a growing number of canine companions are helping people with diabetes avoid dangerous hypoglycemia, Diabetes Forecast,2008; 61 :40-47.4. Shepard JA, Grabman JH, Tripathi AV, Gonder-Frederick LA. Diabetes alert dogs (DADs) vs. technology: patient experiences and perceived accuracy, Poster presented at: American Diabetes Association 76th Scientific Sessions; June 2016; New Orleans, LA.5. Gonder-Frederick L, Rice P, Warren D, Vajda K, Shepard J. Diabetic alert dogs: a preliminary survey of current users, Diabetes Care,2013; 36 ( 4 ):e47.6. Hardin DS, Anderson W, Cattet J. Dogs can be successfully trained to alert to hypoglycemia samples from patients with type 1 diabetes, Diabetes Ther,2015; 6 ( 4 ):509-517.7. Dehlinger K, Tarnowski K, House JL, et al. Can trained dogs detect a hypoglycemic scent in patients with type 1 diabetes? Diabetes Care,2013; 36 ( 7 ):e98-e99.8. Los EA, Ramsey KL, Guttmann-Bauman I, Ahmann AJ. Reliability of trained dogs to alert to hypoglycemia in patients with type 1 diabetes, J Diabetes Sci Technol,2017; 11 ( 3 ):506–512 9. Swets J. Signal Detection and Recognition by Human Observers, New York, NY: John Wiley; 1964.10. Swets J. Signal Detection Theory and ROC Analysis in Psychology and Diagnostics: Collected Papers, Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum; 1996.11. Cox DJ, Ford D, Gonder-Frederick L, et al. Driving mishaps among individuals with type 1 diabetes: a prospective study, Diabetes Care,2009; 32 ( 12 ):2177-2180.12. Wentholt IM, Hoekstra JB, DeVries JH. A critical appraisal of the continuous glucose–error grid analysis, Diabetes Care,2006; 29 ( 8 ):1805-1811.13. Gonder-Frederick LA, Ducar D, Grabman JH, Shepard J. Diabetes alert dogs: a review of the industry, Diabetes,2014; 63 ( suppl ):A223. : Variability of Diabetes Alert Dog Accuracy in a Real-World Setting
How many times a day does a diabetic dog need insulin?
What do I need to know about insulin treatment for diabetes mellitus? – In diabetic dogs, the main treatment for regulating blood glucose is giving insulin by injection. Dogs with diabetes mellitus typically require two daily insulin injections as well as a dietary change.
- Although a dog can go a day or so without insulin and not have a crisis, this should not be a regular occurrence; treatment should be looked upon as part of the dog’s daily routine.
- This means that you, as the dog’s owner, must make both a financial commitment and a personal commitment to treat your dog.
If you are out of town or go on vacation, your dog must receive proper treatment in your absence. Initially, your dog may be hospitalized for a few days to deal with any immediate crisis and to begin the insulin regulation process. For instance, if your dog is so sick that he has stopped eating and drinking for several days, he may be experiencing diabetic ketoacidosis, which may require several days of intensive care.
Once your dog is home, you will continue to administer insulin as prescribed. With the availability of a reliable home monitoring unit such as the AlphaTrak®2, blood sugar (glucose) levels can be tracked easily. Your veterinary healthcare team will teach you how to take the tiny blood sample needed to check your dog’s glucose levels.
Because the glucose readings are taken at home in your dog’s natural environment, stress levels are low and the readings are more generally more accurate. At first, regular glucose readings will be required in order to monitor progress. It may take a month or more to achieve good insulin regulation.
Your veterinarian will work with you to try to achieve consistent regulation, but some dogs are difficult to keep regulated. There is a newer glucose monitoring system (FreeStyle Libre) that can measure glucose continuously over several days. Talk to your veterinarian to see if this is right for your dog.
Consistent treatment is a vital component of the proper management of the diabetic dog. Your dog needs consistent administration of insulin, consistent feeding, and a stable, stress-free lifestyle. Your dog should live indoors to minimize uncontrollable variables that can disrupt regulation.
- The most commonly used insulins are Vetsulin®, Caninsulin®, Humulin®N, and Detemir (brand name Levemir®).
- Your veterinarian will determine the best insulin for your dog.
- Many people are fearful of inflicting pain or harm by giving insulin injections.
- This fear is unfounded since the disposable injection needles are extremely sharp and cause minimal pain, the insulin does not sting on injection, and the injections are given under the skin in areas where it is impossible to damage internal structures.
Some insulins (Vetsulin®) are available in ‘pen’ form and may be easier to administer. Once you are coached on how to give them, you may be pleasantly surprised at how easy it is and how well your dog tolerates the injections.
How often should you walk a diabetic dog?
Daily Stroll However, as a pet parent of a dog with high glucose levels, you must be aware that while exercise is important so is knowing what type of activity suits a diabetic dog best. Taking your dog on a daily walk or two at a reasonable pace is a good place to start.
Can dogs smell diabetics?
A happy paradox – While researchers have found little evidence that dogs can reliably sniff out blood sugar changes, they have encountered a kind of paradox: People who get alert dogs tend to do better with their diabetes. “They may just be more engaged with their diabetes,” says Gonder-Frederick, the researcher. Jessica Moye spends time with Hachi in her yard outside Columbus, Ohio, on Oct.30. Moye helps run a Facebook group dedicated to complaints about the company Diabetic Alert Dogs of America. Maddie McGarvey for NPR hide caption toggle caption Maddie McGarvey for NPR Jessica Moye spends time with Hachi in her yard outside Columbus, Ohio, on Oct.30. Moye helps run a Facebook group dedicated to complaints about the company Diabetic Alert Dogs of America. Maddie McGarvey for NPR Sitting at her kitchen table with Rocky at her feet, Gibson says the dog has helped her feel less alone with her disease.
That’s despite the fact that, she says, he doesn’t work well when he’s scared from a thunderstorm or some other noise and doesn’t alert her to blood sugar changes at the rate she says the vendor promised — 80% of the time. Also, she complains that he was trained to alert her by jumping on her, and she says he’s more than half her weight.
Still, Gibson says: “There will be just times that he’ll come and put his head on my leg and just look up at me — as if he understands in some way what I’m going through. He’s always there for me.” But, she says, “I felt sorry that Rocky as an animal was chosen to do a job he wasn’t equipped to do.
Why do dogs lick diabetics?
Medical detection dogs lick their diabetic owner’s face during a hypo Published: 19:00 GMT, 15 January 2019 | Updated: 20:01 GMT, 15 January 2019
- Medical-detection dogs can pick up on their diabetic owners’ ‘hypos’, research suggests.
- The pooches respond to signs of hypoglycaemia – dangerously low blood sugar – on their owner’s breath or sweat by licking their face or fetching their blood-testing kit.
- After testing 27 dogs in thousands of hypo or hyperglycaemia cases, the researchers found the animals get it right 83 per cent of the time.
- Experts have praised the ‘fantastic’ findings for allowing type 1 diabetics to keep track of their blood sugar levels in a non-invasive, ‘effective’ way that helps them live independently.
One of the study’s participants – Claire Moon – is pictured with her trained dog Magic The research was carried out by the University of Bristol and led by Dr Nicola Rooney, from the department of animal welfare and behaviour. More than four million people in the UK are living with diabetes, Diabetes UK statistics reveal.
- Type 1 diabetes occurs when beta-cells in the pancreas fail to produce insulin and affects just 10 per cent of diabetics.
- Hypoglycaemia is a common side effect of insulin medication among type 1 diabetics but a quarter of patients are unaware of the risks, the researchers wrote in the journal PLOS One.
- Left untreated, hypoglycaemia can lead to unconsciousness or even death.
- Fear of hypoglycaemia is common, which can cause people to ‘run their blood sugars high’.
- This can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis – when the body breaks down fat for energy, which can result in a diabetic coma; as well as severe dehydration.
- Hypoglycaemia – or a hypo – occurs when a person’s blood sugar level drops too low.
- It mainly affects diabetics, particularly if they take insulin.
- If you have a device to check your blood sugar level, a reading of less than 4mmol/L is too low and should be treated.
- Early symptoms can include:
- Tingling lips
- Heart palpitations
- Turning pale
If untreated, symptoms can develop into:
- Blurred vision or slurred speech
- Difficulty concentrating
- Collapsing or unconsciousness
If hypos occur at night, people can wake with headaches, fatigue or damp sheets from sweat. If your blood-sugar reading is less than 4mmol/L or you have hypo symptoms, have a sugary snack or drink and re-test your blood sugar level after 15minutes. If it has not improved, seek medical attention. A glucagon injection can also help. Causes of hypos can include:
- Too much diabetes medication, particularly insulin
- Skipping or delaying a meal
- Intense or unplanned exercise
- Binge drinking, particularly on an empty stomach
- Glycaemia-alert dogs have been shown to improve the quality of life of patients with type 1 diabetes, however, research is sparse, contradictory and only investigated a small number of animals.
- ‘We already know from previous studies that patients’ quality of life is vastly improved by having a medical detection dog,’ Dr Rooney said.
- ‘However, to date, evidence has come from small scale studies.
- ‘Our study provides the first large-scale evaluation of using medical detection dogs to detect hypoglycaemia.’
- The researchers analysed medical records to assess the reliability of 27 trained dogs after their owners provided six-to-12 weeks worth of blood results every time their pet became alerted.
- The dogs were trained by Medical Detection Dogs – the only UK programme accredited by Assistance Dogs UK for training hypoglycaemia-alert dogs.
- The animals were first exposed to their owner’s sweat or breath in the lab while the diabetics were in a hypoglycaemic state.
- They were then trained to respond by licking their owner’s face or fetching their blood-testing kit.
- To be credited, the dogs must demonstrate 75 per cent sensitivity with less than 15 per cent false alerts.
- The animals in the study had been credited for an average of one-and-a-half years.
- Results revealed the dogs varied in how reliable they were at picking up on hypoglycaemia episodes but were correct 83 per cent of the time.
- Four of the dogs even had 100 per cent accuracy rates and only two were incorrect more than half of the time.
- Once alerted by their pooches, the owners could take appropriate action by administering insulin or eating something that restored their blood sugar levels.
- Dr Claire Guest, chief executive and co-founder of Medical Detection Dogs, said: ‘The findings are fantastic news for all those who are living with Type 1 diabetes and other conditions.
- ‘Medical detection dogs primarily serve patients looking for more effective and independent ways of managing their condition.
- ‘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 Ronney called for more research, adding: ‘Since the usage of such dogs is growing, it’s important any dogs used for these purposes are professionally trained, matched and monitored by professional organisations like Medical Detection Dogs.’
: Medical detection dogs lick their diabetic owner’s face during a hypo
What is the smell of low blood sugar?
– Anyone living with diabetes whose breath suddenly has a fruity, acetone-like smell should check their blood sugar and ketone levels, as it could be a sign of diabetic ketoacidosis. Without treatment, DKA can quickly become a health emergency. If a person’s ketone levels are high, they should seek immediate medical treatment.
Are walks good for diabetic dogs?
Walk the Dog – Regular exercise will also help your pooch lose weight and lower blood sugar levels. It’s best to have your dog exercise for the same length of time and at the same intensity every day. An unusually long or vigorous workout could cause blood sugar levels to drop too low.
Planning a tough hike? Talk to your vet about adjusting your dog’s insulin first. It can take a few months to get to “cruise control,” so try not to worry if your pup’s blood sugar levels aren’t under control quickly. Also, losing weight may lessen your dog’s need for insulin, so check their levels often.
Caring for a dog with diabetes can be hard at first. But soon the changes will become part of your daily life. The extra care and attention you’ll give them may even strengthen your bond.
How long does it take to train a service dog?
A minimum of 120 hours + 30 hours of practice in public – There is NO quick, cheap and easy way to make a service dog. It takes a very special dog, one that is very social and trainable, and hours of training and exposure. Between the public access manners and the specialized skills required for a particular disability, based on the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners (IAADP) guidelines, training a service dog requires a minimum of 120 hours of training for at least 6 months (depending on the dog and the required skills).
Do diabetic dogs live long?
Average lifespan of dog with diabetes – Many dogs who show symptoms of diabetes and are diagnosed with it do not actually die from diabetes if given the proper treatment. In fact, if your dog lives past the first 3 to 4 months of being diagnosed and is not left untreated, both you and your furry friend can still spend lots of time together.
- The median survival for dogs with diabetes is two years, and there are many who live much longer than that, provided that they receive proper treatment and are regularly assessed by the vet.
- Thus, dogs with diabetes generally live a full, happy life that is free of symptoms when given the proper treatment.
However, without treatment or insulin therapy, dogs who are suffering from diabetes mellitus are at high risk of developing complications such as diabetic ketoacidosis which can cause multi organ failure. Many dogs who pass away due to diabetes often do so because they were diagnosed late and/or before the disease could be regulated.
Is a diabetic alert dog worth it?
1. Introduction – Hypoglycaemia is a common side effect of intensive insulin management amongst patients with Type 1 diabetes. It can be very distressing and presents risk of serious neurological and cardiovascular consequences (e.g., ), especially for patients who have lost the early warning signs of impending blood glucose changes.
Unawareness is reported in 25% of Type 1 diabetes patients, increasing their risk of severe hypoglycaemic (low blood glucose) episodes 6-7-fold, Fear of hypoglycaemia is very common particularly related to night time hypoglcaemic episodes which are a potential cause of death. This fear can result in patients manipulating insulin levels, or “running their blood sugars high”, which can increase the risk of long-term deleterious consequences of hyperglycaemia (high blood glucose; ).
There are a variety of technologies available to patients, but one potentially valuable and non-invasive intervention is the glycaemia alert dog. Case studies and surveys suggest that some pet dogs naturally respond to their owners’ hypoglycaemic state, and based on this, charities have started to train dogs to live with people with Type 1 diabetes.
- Similar to dogs trained to detect contraband, these dogs are conditioned to respond with specific alerting behaviours when their owners’ blood sugars fall outside a target range, known as an out-of-range (OOR) episode.
- This prompts the patient to test their blood glucose level, and to take appropriate action (e.g., insulin administration or eating) to retain appropriate glucose levels.
While some organisations train all dogs to a generic range (see ), others train individual dogs to best meet the specific needs of the individual client, At its best, a trained alert dog has the potential to vastly improve the quality of life of people living with Type 1 diabetes, allowing them to more tightly regulate their blood sugars and avoid the risks of both hypoglycaemic episodes and long-term health consequences of hyperglycaemia.
However, there remains the possibility that having a trained dog simply produces a placebo effect with benefits no greater than those known to be associated with general dog ownership (see ). Since the usage of such dogs is growing, and false confidence in the dogs’ abilities could have detrimental consequences, it is vital that their true efficacy be assessed, and factors affecting performance identified.
There have been a growing number of studies of “Diabetic Alert Dogs” (see ). One small study showed that three dogs trained to work with their owners showed relatively low sensitivity (true positive rate) and specificity (true negative rate) when tested on remote skin samples,
A further study demonstrated that dogs have the potential to distinguish between perspiration samples from hypo- and eu-glycaemic states; six dogs were tested remotely and demonstrated sensitivities ranging from 50 to 87.5% and specificities of 89.6 to 99.7%, Several case examples and exploratory studies in both the USA and UK, have documented that people believe they have significantly fewer hypoglycaemic episodes and improved Quality of Life after acquiring an alert dog,
Owner-reported data, supplied by 17 dog users, also supported survey results with the majority of patients’ routine blood records showing tightened glycaemic control after dog acquisition as compared to before. A single recent study, however, has utilised blinded glucose monitoring records and questioned the universal value of alert dogs,
Comparing eight dogs trained by a variety of agencies, Los et al. (2016; ) reported average sensitivities (proportion of hypoglycaemic episodes correctly identified by the dogs) of only 36% over 45 hypoglycaemic episodes. More concerning is that they reported high levels of false alerting, resulting in average positive predictive values (PPVs; proportion of alerts that are correct) of only 12%.
Thus, the dogs were deemed less reliable than the other monitoring systems tested. However, one must also consider that the equipment used to measure blood glucose is not 100% accurate or reliable, with different technologies producing varying time lags (e.g.,).
- Although the dogs were reported to respond to hyperglycaemia as well as hypoglycaemia, alerts during times of high blood sugar were classified as incorrect, which may account for a significant proportion of the “false alerts”. Although agencies generally do not train dogs specifically to respond to levels above their owner’s target range, they report that many dogs naturally start doing so (and are usually rewarded for such responses). The reliability of dogs at alerting at time of high, as well as low, blood sugars needs to be examined to fully assess diabetic alert dog efficiency.
- The study includes a small and diverse sample of dogs, yet reports only mean sensitivity and PPV levels, rather than individual dog’s proficiency. A further study reports large inter-dog variability, the extent and causation of which remains untested. Trainers and instructors of diabetes dogs describe traits in individual dogs which they believe are associated with better performance (pers comm). They also describe the nature of the person’s diabetes (e.g., the speed with which blood sugars change), their lifestyle (e.g. busyness of the household and the consistency of their behaviour towards their dog), and their attitude towards their dog, (e.g., confidence in its ability), to affect the dog’s success at alerting their owner to OOR episodes. It is important to understand the factors associated with optimal performance in order to select dogs and train them in a way that maximises their alerting performance.
- A previous report has mentioned dogs alerting at times of rapidly falling, yet still within target range, blood glucose levels, The existent of pre-alerting behaviour remains to be tested and was not explored in the study by Los et al. (2016; ). By varying the time window over which an alert is deemed correct, we can determine whether dogs are able to reliably “pre-alert”. This phenomenon is important, as if some dogs pre-alert to impending low or high blood sugars, their measured sensitivities will appear artificially low. The mechanisms by which they achieve pre-alerting abilities are also of importance to elucidate as they potentially could inform improvement in future technology.
The current study explores the variability in glycaemia alert dog response rates further, using dogs trained by a single agency, Medical Detection Dogs, the only programme in the United Kingdom that is accredited by Assistance Dogs UK for training hypoglycaemia alert dogs. This charity receives no state funding and has strict standards for both general obedience in public places and task-related performance. Dogs are initially trained at the charity headquarters using in vitro samples obtained from the dog’s prospective owner. Samples of breath (post-2014) or sweat (prior to 2014), taken when the person is in a hypoglycaemic state are paired with a food reward. Dogs are trained to respond to the samples with specific behaviours, such as licking the owner or fetching the owner’s blood testing kit, The charity has gradually evolved to optimise training methods based on cumulative experience and potentially important changes occurred in 2014, before which dogs were trained to show specific a-priori chosen alerts, and after which individual dogs were trained to show the alert behaviours which they naturally favoured. This study represents the first large-scale evaluation of the efficacy of dogs trained before and after these protocol changes. Medical Detection Dogs protocol stipulates, that after initial centred-based training, when trainee dogs are performing reliably to the future partner’s odour (after approximately 7 weeks), dogs are paired with that client, and in situ training continues. Prior to accreditation clients are required to keep records of all routine blood glucose tests (taken a minimum of six times per day) and also to test their blood glucose levels every time their dog shows an alerting behaviour. Although in vitro training and accreditation involves only hypoglycaemia, dogs often spontaneously alert to hyperglycaemia when matched with their owner, The charity recommends rewarding these spontaneous alerts, but with a smaller reward. Dogs may sometimes show “response alerts” performing the required behaviour only after their owner has conducted a blood test. Clients are generally advised to reward these, but since they do not represent a spontaneous alert, they are not included in any calculation of dog sensitivity. To be accredited, dogs much achieve a level of 75% sensitivity (to hypoglycaemic samples) with less than 15% (PPV>85%) false alerts over a consistent period of three months, as well as pass a standardised “public access” test as required by Assistance Dogs UK. Once the partnership is accredited, the client is primarily responsible for rewarding their dog and hence maintaining its performance, but regular instructor support and visits are designed to assist with this. Each client provides approximately six weeks of blood test and dog alerting data annually to allow performance to be monitored and problems identified. It is these data (combined with pre-certification data, in some cases) which we use in the current study. Using a sample of 27 dogs, trained by this single agency, and records of 4197 hypo- and hyper-glycaemic episodes, we test several hypotheses:
- Individual dogs vary in the sensitivity and specificity of their responses;
- Dogs show differing sensitivities to high and to low blood sugar levels;
- Individual differences in performance are associated with specific traits which differ between dog-owner partnerships and with the time for which the dog has been certified;
- Some dogs respond when blood sugars are rapidly changing before they reach an out-of-target range.
Can I train my own seizure alert dog?
Seizure-Alert Dogs: Just the Facts, Hold the Media Hype “Seizure-alert dogs, save lives.” This is what the media would like the general public to believe. While it makes for a great headline, it also makes for a grave misrepresentation of the truth.The truth is: seizure dogs can not be trained to “alert” a person of an oncoming seizure.
- Therefore, a seizure dog may be useful in assisting a person during or after a seizure, but is not guaranteed to be able to “alert” a person of an oncoming seizure.
- Seizure-alert dogs, as implied by their name, are dogs that can sense and notify their human companions of an oncoming seizure.
- This alerting behavior has been reported to occur several seconds to 45 minutes or more before the onset of the seizure.
The dog does this by exhibiting marked changes in behavior, including close eye contact, circling, pawing, barking etc. According to Deborah Dalziel, research coordinator on seizure alert dogs for a University of Florida Veterinary Medicine study, “There is this misconception that any seizure dog can be trained to alert, which just isn’t true.
- A dog can cue in on minute behavioral differences, but can’t be trained to alert.” She points out that there are no scientific studies to support the many theories on how dogs detect an oncoming seizure.
- What we know on how dogs can alert to a seizure before it occurs is still a mystery.
- From a scientific standpoint, there is still so much that remains to be determined,” said Dr.
Basim Uthman, associate professor of neurology and neuroscience at the University of Florida College of Medicine and Brain Institute. In the 1998 study conducted by Dalziel, Uthman and colleagues, a qualitative questionnaire was completed by 63 epilepsy subjects.
- Of the 63 subjects, 29 owned pet dogs.
- Of the 29 subjects, nine reported that their dogs responded to a seizure.
- These dogs remained close to their human companions, either standing or lying alongside them, sometimes licking the person’s face or hands during and immediately after the seizure.
- Of the nine dogs reported to respond, three were reported to also alert their human companion to an impending seizure.
While the numbers of the study done at the University of Florida were too small to be conclusive, they did suggest that the dogs’ alerting behavior is not breed, age or gender specific. Also, the study indicated that the dog is more likely to alert to a person with a certain type of seizure, a person who experiences migraine headaches, and a person who experiences certain types of auras.
Furthermore, the study indicated that the effectiveness of the seizure-alerting dog depends greatly on the ability of the human companion to recognize and appropriately respond to the dog’s alerting behavior. Megan Esherick, a trainer for Canine Partners For Life, confirmed this by stating, “For some people, a seizure-alert dog can really make a difference.
Generally, the person needs to have the cognitive ability to notice that the dog is trying to alert them and respond accordingly. Sometimes the dog may be alerting in more subtle ways other than barking or pawing, and the person needs to be able to pick-up on that.” Some trainers and researchers believe the dog is able to alert by detecting subtle changes in human behavior.
While others assert that a dog’s heightened sense of smell enables it to detect an oncoming seizure. “I think a lot of it is that people give off cues and dogs are more alert to body language,” said Mike Sapp, chief operating officer of Paws With A Cause. “But there haven’t been enough scientific studies done.
So who really knows why?” Sapp believes that true alerting behavior is the result of the dog and human developing a strong bond, which can only evolve over time.
How accurate are diabetic alert dogs?
What the science says – University of Virginia psychologist Linda Gonder-Frederick tracked the performance of 14 diabetic alert dogs in a 2017 study, Before the study, their owners believed the dogs would prove more accurate than their glucose monitor devices.
- That didn’t happen.
- Overall, they really were not that reliable or accurate,” she says.
- Of 14 dogs in the study, only three performed better than statistical chance.
- That’s similar to what an Oregon researcher reported in 2016,
- The dogs in that study detected low blood sugar events 36% of the time.
- They also had false positives.
Only 12% of the dogs’ alerts happened during actual low blood sugar events. Ed Peeples (center) takes part in the JDRF One Walk, which raises money to research Type 1 diabetes, in Las Vegas. Peeples is a co-owner of the company Diabetic Alert Dogs of America. Joe Buglewicz for NPR hide caption toggle caption Joe Buglewicz for NPR Ed Peeples (center) takes part in the JDRF One Walk, which raises money to research Type 1 diabetes, in Las Vegas. Peeples is a co-owner of the company Diabetic Alert Dogs of America. Joe Buglewicz for NPR Gonder-Frederick says some dog owners overestimate their beloved dogs’ talents, perhaps as they would a favored grandchild.
- People might notice and remember when the dog is accurate much more easily than they would notice or remember when the dog was not accurate,” she says.
- You find a person who believes very strongly in their dog, when in fact maybe the dog’s right half the time.” The psychological process at work, she says, is a kind of confirmation bias.
Her research also contradicted what some believe — or hope — is true: That the dogs can be a good safety net for those who worry about blood sugar dropping as they sleep. Some parents have turned to the dogs to safeguard their children during the night.
“The accuracy just plummeted during the night. Dogs have to sleep too. Obviously, a dog cannot work 24/7,” Gonder-Frederick says. There’s not too much other research, but what does exist isn’t more encouraging. A study published in 2015 and a 2019 British study did find good performance but involved possible conflicts of interest.
Both studies were co-written by the dogs’ trainers or suppliers. Authors of both articles tell NPR the arrangements did not amount to conflicts and didn’t bias the studies.