Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Diabetes Detection Dogs

Many dogs have an uncanny ability to detect things that humans can't because of their keen sense of smell. My Rhodesian Ridgeback could detect storms at least 15 minutes before they happened. Dogs have been known to sniff cancer in humans and now, they are training them to assist diabetes in people who suffer from the disease. Some of these dogs have such an acute sense of smell, they actually save the lives of their owners.

It all began in a 1992 Diabetic Magazine article when it was noticed that animals such as dogs, cats, rabbits and even birds had a dramatic change in behavior when their blood sugar dropped. One of the oldest organizations in the United States is Dogs4Diabetics. The founder back in 2003 had a dog named Benton with him that he had been training for as a guide dog. Before going to bed, he had a donut, and shot himself with extra insulin to compensate. In the middle of the night, Benton stayed by his side, frantically waking him until he made a point to recheck his blood sugar and raised it back up to the correct levels.

He later received Armstrong from Guide Dogs of the Blind because he had a great nose for sniffing but wasn't cut out for being a guide dog. Ruefenacht one of his friends who also had diabetes, to bring some clothes over when she had a low blood sugar day. Armstrong reacted the way they had thought he would and they knew this was something special. In 2004 Ruefenacht created Dogs4Diabetics. Their success has been phenomenal with many of their dog owners telling them their diabetes has never been under better control since they've gotten their dog.

It's not cheap to train these dogs. It usually costs around $20,000 dollars. One of the owners was able to have his dog trained for $9,000 dollars.

One of the most incredible stories of dogs detecting diabetes was when Belle the Beagle was taught by her owner, Kevin Weaver. He taught Bella to bite on the number 9 which was a way to speed dial 911. One day in February 2006 he had a seizure and Bella dialed 9 one his phone and alerted the 911 operator by barking. That day, she saved his life. In June of 2006, Bella was the first pet to receive Vita Samaritan Award in Washington D.C. It is an award given when cell phones are used to help people.

Organizations have sprouted around the U.S. and are also popping up overseas in places like the United Kingdom.

Here are some organizations who specialize in this training:
Alert Service Dogs
All Purpose Canines
Canine Partners for Life

Well, thanks for stopping in. If you would like to share a similar experience, please leave a comment or write me. Have a great day!

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