You’ve all heard of cancer-detecting dogs and seizure alerters. But here’s one I hadn’t been aware of since very recently: Dogs with the ability to sniff out hypoglycemia.They call this class of dogs bio-detectors, a perfectly reasonable moniker for what it is they do. Somehow, they can use their thousand-times more sensitive sense of smell to sniff out  pathology...sometimes well in advance of its devastating effects.

If the goal is to save lives through early cancer detection and provide a safety net for those afflicted by devastating episodic diseases, dogs have proven their mettle. Though refinements in training, degrees of detection and distribution of this new brand of service dog are still being worked out––and will be for a while, I’m afraid––it’s all in the works, according to the British research center, Cancer and Bio-detection Dogs.

Its mission? “To improve the detection, recognition and diagnosis of human diseases and other medical conditions, by the use of dogs and other animals trained in the recognition of relevant stimuli” And their newest project? Aid for those with Type 1 diabetes.

According to a New York Times piece published last month,

“Last year, researchers from Queen’s University in Belfast decided to investigate anecdotal reports from dog owners who said their pets warned them of hypoglycemic attacks. They surveyed 212 dog owners, all of whom had Type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disorder that prevents the body from producing insulin. A regular concern with Type 1 is that blood sugar will drop precipitously low, causing a person to fall unconscious.

Among the dog owners, 138, or 65 percent, said their dog had shown a behavioral reaction to at least one of their hypoglycemic episodes. About a third of the animals had reacted to 11 or more events, with 31.9 percent of animals reacting to 11 or more events. The dogs got their owners’ attention by barking and whining, (61.5 percent), licking (49.2 percent), nuzzling (40.6 percent), jumping on top of them (30.4 percent), and/or staring intently at their faces (41.3 percent). A small percentage of the dogs reportedly tremble in fear at the time of a hypoglycemic attack.”

But that’s not all. Organizations training these dogs in the US and the UK have reported that a very small percentage of these dogs have been exchanged for others due to an inability to detect their hypoglycemic episodes. The proof is in the pudding, as they say.

What do they smell? There’s the rub. We don’t know. Is it hormonal fluctuations, endorphins or what?

Next up, the obvious question any veterinarian would ask: Can they detect the same in our pets?


Check out my PetMD DailyVet post for the day: Location, location, location...and your pets' vaccines. It's a corollary to last week's post on retail vaccine sales.

On a related note: Tomorrow night, Dolittler BFF Dr. Phil Zeltzman (of fabulous newsletter and glorious vet surgical fame) will be discussing the topic of vaccine-associated sarcomas on Martha Stewart's satellite radio show. It's happening at 8-9 PM EST, September 2 on XM #157 and Sirius #112. Don't miss it!