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December 5, 2011 at 2:09 PMComments: 1 Faves: 0

Dogs can check your blood sugar?

By Bri Luginbill More Blogs by This Author

Welcome to this week’s The Kibble. Here to bring you the most recent discoveries in dog health news!

Today, the phrase “a dog is a man’s (or woman’s) best friend” has been taken to a whole new level. Tanner, a Labrador retriever, goes behind the regular companionship associated with his pet dog duties. He can actually measure his owner’s blood glucose level. All it takes is a little sniff.

'“Tanner, can you check me?” [Jenna] asked the dog.

A quick sniff by the canine, followed by a high five from his paw, and Jenna knew the level was high.

“Good boy,” she told Tanner. “Let’s go get a high treat.”'

Jenna, a seventh grader at Hudsonville, had many devices before that measured her blood glucose level. She’s pricked her finger many times, so her sugar can be read. She even had (and still has) a device that monitors her blood pressure 24/7. Now, she has a canine companion that can detect whether or blood sugar is high or low.

Jenna gives off a certain scent in her breath when her blood sugar is high or low. Her dog Tanner smells the scent and lets her know if her blood sugar is high by giving Jenna a high five. Jenna then knows it’s time for an insulin shot.

How did Tanner learn to decipher blood sugar levels?

Tanner was trained to sniff blood sugar by a dog trainer in Kentucky. When Jenna was diagnosed with Diabetes in 2009, her family bought a dog and had this person train him.

Still using Traditional Techniques

Jenna still uses traditional monitoring like she has in the past. Tanner is just another tool. He really comes in handy when the traditional technology doesn't register when Jenna's blood sugar changes. Sometimes the monitor can be up to 15 minutes behind in detecting what her blood sugar actually is.

One day Jenna was returning home from practicing tennis and she sat down on the couch exhaustedly. The device she was wearing showed that her blood sugar was stable, but Tanner disagreed.

“Tanner kept putting his paws up on me and looking at Jenna,” Darlene Schuiling, Jenna's mom, recalled. “He insisted, so I took her blood sugar, and it was dangerously low.

Doctors’ are not so sure about "dog monitors"

Dr. Daniel Postellon, Jenna’s doctor, states that dogs like Tanner are “theoretically possible” but that he hasn’t found any research about how accurate they are.

“I have my doubts,” Postellon said, noting continuous glucose monitors are sound. “It’s certainly not a replacement for checking your blood sugar.”

How much does a dog like this cost?

Tanner’s training cost 10,000. Jenna’s family had to take out a loan to afford it. But the money is worth the peace of mind.

“I feel comfortable leaving Jenna alone knowing Tanner’s here,” Jenna’s mother said.

What do you think about dogs as blood glucose monitors? Would you try it out?


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1 Comment

  • I'm a type 1 diabetic for 28 yrs. My sweet husky, Birdy, would alert me when my blood sugar was low by pacing and panting until I acknowledged her. She was never formally trained to alert me, our 15 yrs together taught her this. Birdy passed at 17 yrs old. After 4 months together my new boy Blue (2.5 yrs old) has already started to communicate my low blood sugar by acting crazy. Blue is a Staffordshire terrier-mutt-mix. I hope his communication evolves into something else. I know through my experience dogs can and do sense changes in blood sugar levels. I don't depend on my dog to alert me but it is really awesome when they do!

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