For people with brittle diabetes type 1, so named because of the sudden fluctuations in blood sugar levels, life can be very difficult: one second you may be feeling fine, but within minutes your blood sugar can drop dramatically, possibly leaving you comatose. For 12 year-old Steven, his four-year-old cocker spaniel, Molly, was a life saver- she was trained to smell changes that occur as a result of changes in blood sugar levels in his breath, so that she could notify him by barking and become agitated when he was at risk of getting hypoglycaemia. Moreover, before getting Molly, Steven’s parents barely slept due to the constant blood sugar levels checks in the night, for fear of him getting a hypoglycaemic attack.
Although dogs have been used for helping people with many other diseases and conditions, they have also proven to be effective at detecting certain ailments; some dogs can detect cancer in people, and it is very likely that our canine friends can also detect a wide variety of other conditions, and possibly even diabetes. This could help substantially with early diagnosis of diabetes, but also with helping people with brittle diabetes, like Steven, for whom it is incredibly hard to maintain good blood sugar levels. At the moment, the main group leading the training and research of medical assistance dogs is Medical Assistance Dogs, a charity that aims to train dogs to help people with any diseases or conditions, and to train dogs to detect cancer. However, due to the lack of funding their progress has been slowed down considerably; if you would like to donate to this charity, then visit their donation page on their website, where you can find out more information about their life-saving work.
Source: Telegraph magazine, 6th December 2014, article ‘Pet rescue’