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diabetic alert dogs


Hero medical alert dog tells her owners to check on their diabetic daughter just in time

They had no reason to think anything was wrong, but Spy's nose said otherwise.

Photo by Laura Roberts on Unsplash

English labradors are one of the most popular medical service dog breeds.

It's been around 20,000 years since dogs were first domesticated to live alongside humans as companions and helpers. But dogs' ability to detect specific medical problems and alert people to them has only been purposefully honed in the past 100 years or so.

Thanks to social media, the incredible abilities of trained dogs to do life-saving work is becoming more visible. People who use medical alert dogs to recognize signs that humans might miss have been sharing what it looks like when their dogs are doing their job, and it's quite remarkable to witness.

In a video that's been viewed 2 million times on Instagram, one family shared what happened when their English lab, Spy, sensed something wrong with his family member who has type 1 diabetes. The young girl was asleep, and her parents had just done a pump change and given her insulin an hour before, so they had no reason to think anything might be wrong.

But Spy knew otherwise. Diabetes service dogs can tell when something goes awry with a diabetic person's blood sugar. According to The diaTribe Foundation, Diabetic Alert Dogs (or DADs) are trained to smell compounds that are released from someone’s body when their blood sugar is too high or too low. Scientists aren't entirely sure what the dogs are smelling, but the research indicates it's likely ketones for high blood sugar and a natural chemical called isoprene for low blood sugar. Whatever it is, dogs can smell it, and when they do, they're trained to alert someone.

Watch Spy get her owners' attention and lead them to their daughter's room where something had gone wrong:

A normal blood sugar ranges from around 70 to around 150, so well into the 300s is not good. Spy was so diligent in getting her people's attention, taking them to where the problem was and and making sure they were attending to their daughter, and people loved seeing her in action.

"This gives me chills, good Spy! She takes such good care of her girl," wrote another.

"Does Spy have a medical office, because I’m only trusting his medical advice from this day forward…" wrote one commenter.

"That’s cool, my dog's special talent is vomiting when she doesn’t get enough attention," joked one person.

"For those who don't know, a medical alert animal will always come and find someone when their person needs help. So if you see one looking at you, follow them. You will help save a life," shared another.

Some people shared that they've had or known dogs who could detect when a diabetic family members blood sugar was off, even when they weren't trained for it, showing how some dogs seem to be made for this kind of service. It's been estimated that a dog's sense of smell is 1,000 to 10,000 times stronger than a human's. Dogs also have good scent memory, which makes them ideal helpers for medical conditions that include body scent signals that humans can't detect but dogs can.

People often say we don't deserve dogs, and when you see a medical alert dog in action it's hard to argue otherwise. Learn more about medical service dogs here and follow @ouronederfulboggslife on Instagram, where Spy helps her family educate people about living with type 1 diabetes, here.