If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, you’re familiar with the importance of maintaining normal blood sugar levels, as well as the dangers associated with hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia. However, most people don’t realize their blood sugar is unbalanced until they start experiencing symptoms, which range from mild to severe depending on the circumstance.
If you’re a dog lover, you may find a pet who doubles as an aid to help with your diabetes condition. These special dogs have the ability to sense if your blood sugar levels get too high or low, and alert you before you start suffering from complications due to these symptoms.
We’ll explain how these dogs work, where you can find them, and everything else you need to know about a diabetic alert dog.
This information will be helpful for anyone who is interested in a diabetes alert dog, or for someone who recently acquired one of these dogs and still has some questions.
What is a Diabetes Alert Dog?
Dogs have an enhanced sense of smell. Diabetic alert dogs are specifically trained to recognize and detect odors associated with an organic chemical change in the human body which are signs of hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia, according to the Diabetic Alert Dogs of America.
When your blood sugar levels get too high or too low, your body releases a distinct smell which is undetected by the human nose. However, these dogs can smell the chemical change and alert you before it becomes dangerous.
Diabetic alert dogs go through extensive training, which not only qualifies them to notify you about diabetes related problems but also to live in your home and be functional pets in day-to-day life situations.
What is a Service Dog?
Service dogs are individually trained to help and perform tasks for people with disabilities, according to the Americans with Disabilities Act from the US Department of Justice Civil Rights Division.
Since diabetic alert dogs are service animals, they have certain rights, benefits, and special treatment other dogs do not receive.
The ADA states businesses, nonprofit organizations, state and local governments who serve the public must allow your service dog to accompany you on the premises in any area where the public is normally allowed to go.
The dog must be on a leash, harness, or tether at all times unless they infringe on the animal’s ability to perform their tasks to help with disabilities. If they are not on a leash, the dog owner must be able to maintain control of the dog by voice or signal.
What if a Business Asks Me to Leave Because of My dog?
The staff or owners at a business are legally only allowed to ask you two questions about your service dog, according to the Service Dogs by Warren Retrievers Organization.
- Is the dog a service animal?
- What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?
They are not allowed to ask you about your medical condition, disability, ask for documentation, or ask the dog to perform any tasks, according to the United States Dog Registry. Even businesses serviing food must allow service dogs on the premises, regardless of the state or local health laws which may prohibit animals on the property.
How Can I Get a Diabetic Alert Dog?
The American Diabetes Association recommends getting a diabetic alert dog only from reputable businesses such as the Diabetes Alert Dog Alliance, Dogs for Diabetics, All Purpose Canines, and Medical Mutts. Going through a certified and reputable company ensures your dog will have the proper training to assist with your diabetic condition.
It takes a long time to properly train a service dog. Unrepeatable trainers who try to sell service animals while they puppies should not be considered. You should only consider getting a diabetic alert dog who is at least 18 months old. This way you know it has had enough time to get exposed to a wide range of situations while it matures.
Most online companies require you to fill out some form or application to start the process of getting your alert dog. These applications are not meant to approve or deny you from getting a service animal; they are just to find out more information about you and your diabetic condition. Answer these questions honestly to get matched with the most suitable dog.
Some of the applications ask questions about the type of home you live in, such an apartment, two-story house, or single story house. They also ask about your age, allergies you or anyone in your household suffers from, other animals living in your house, your primary method of transportation, and history owning dogs or service animals.
Costs and Payment Options
According to Jennifer Cattet, PhD, and Dana S. Hardin, MD at Diabetes Forecast, the average price of a fully trained diabetic alert dog is about $20,000. The Disability Benefits Help Organization explains service animals are not covered by health insurance. Many companies offer payment plans and financing options to help people who can’t buy one outright.
There are some not-for-profit organizations who provide service dogs at little to no cost for diabetic patients.
However, the wait list for receiving one of these dogs typically ranges from two to five years. A couple of reputable not-for-profit organizations include Canine Companions for Independence and the International Association of Dog Partners.
In some cases, you may be entitled to disability benefits if your uncontrolled diabetes prevents you from working. If so, you can use part of your monthly sum to put towards the dog’s expenses.
How Does a Dog Help with the Dangers Associated with Diabetes?
If you let your blood sugar levels drop too low, then you put yourself at risk for complications. The level of severity varies depending on how fast you can correct the imbalance. People with type 1 and type 2 diabetes are both at risk for these dangers.
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Diseases, mild symptoms of hypoglycemia include irregular heartbeat, blurred vision, headaches, confusion, dizziness, and loss of coordination. Severe symptoms are seizures, inability to eat or drink, and unconsciousness.
When this happens, your dog will notify you with a pre-determined signal your blood sugar levels are imbalanced. These signals include a specific, nudge, scratch, or bringing an object over to get your attention.
Hypoglycemia usually happens if you are not eating properly or often enough. Once your dog alerts you your blood sugar is too low, you’ll need to immediately consume food or calories to balance your insulin levels. Over exertion from exercising or physical activity is another trigger for a hypoglycemic reaction.
Final Thoughts On Diabetic Service Dogs
Make sure you conduct proper and thorough research about the organization you plan to get a diabetic alert dog from. You want to ensure the dog has been properly trained and the business is reputable.
According to a study by the National Library of Medicine, properly trained diabetic alert dogs have the ability to recognize hypoglycemia and alert the patient up to 97.9% of the time. These results suggest smell alone is a successful enough tool for the animals.
Dog’s heightened sense of smell qualifies them to get trained for these circumstances. Dogs have over 225 million scent receptors in their nose, compared to the 5 million humans have, according to the National Institute for Diabetic Alert Dogs.
Although the price of these dogs is normally substantial, there are financing options as well as not-for-profit organizations who can help you pay for your service animal.