St John SA introduces Diabetes Detection Dogs

St John SA introduces Diabetes Detection Dogs

01 April 2018

Let us introduce a type of service dog that you may not be aware exists: the Diabetes Detection Dog.

We are not introducing them to our team, as our Event Health Services members are trained and equipped to identify potential diabetic emergencies without the help of a dog; rather would we like to raise awareness for a type of service dog that many people may not have heard of, since the animals can be of invaluable support to private owners.

Diabetes Detection Dogs provide potentially lifesaving assistance to persons with type 1 Diabetes by smelling and alerting their owner to the chemical change that occurs in the body when insulin levels drop.

The dogs receive highly specialised training that teaches them to identify the scent from the chemical change caused by insulin fluctuations, and properly alert their owner to it, for example by nudging or pawing them in a particular way. This reminds the owner to check their blood glucose level, and also to get something to eat to prevent blood sugar levels from dropping further.

The canine companions can also be trained to fetch juice or glucose paste or tabs, get help from another person in the house or even items such as an emergency phone.

The dogs can also be equipped with a backpack that identifies them as an assistance dog, as well as carry emergency contact information, medical information and a source of sugar, such as jelly beans. Should the owner be out in public and unable to get help in time, bystanders will be able to identify quickly that it is a medical emergency.

Training for Diabetes Detection Dogs is similar to that of search and rescue dogs, certain police dogs or other medical alert dogs, and puppies are selected based on their willingness to work and a sensitive nose.

Diabetes Detection Dogs can play a significant role in managing a serious condition as Type 1 Diabetes through preventing hypoglycaemic attacks, and they do exist in Australia. We encourage you to find out more if you believe you may benefit from them. This article was written to raise awareness for this type of service dog – St John SA does not train or place service dogs.

Do you know how to recognise a potential diabetic emergency? 

To find out more about identifying diabetic emergencies and what to do, read our blog post from last year's National Diabetes Week