On one of the rainy days last week, a friend an I decided to go see a movie. Why this movie won all sorts of Academy Awards, I have yet to figure out. I found it kinda long and slow, but I’m not a movie critic. Rainie, however, found the theater’s floor a veritable feast! She kept finding things to reach for and lick, despite the fact that I’d put a blanket down for her, and this was the first showing of the day.
Finally, I thought she’d settled down, when I felt a gentle paw on my lap. She was alerting me. I remembered she’d alerted me at home after lunch, and my blood sugar was a little high (180). I wasn’t worried then because I had just eaten. But I was surprised when she alerted again so soon. So, in the dark with the help of a flashlight, I tested my blood sugar. It was much higher (260). I gave myself some corrective insulin, and decided to wait – but Rainie wouldn’t let me wait, nor would she settle down. She kept pawing at me, and soon she was in my lap. I tested again and discovered my BS was in the mid-300s. Way too high for me! I was feeling sort-of panicky, so with the help of my trusty flashlight, I pulled out my pump’s cannula. Wow! I found that when I’d replaced my pump site in the late morning, the cannula had crimped against my skin and I hadn’t gotten any insulin for the past few hours. Rainie had alerted me to my blood sugar rising and her alerts intensified as my blood sugar became way too high.
I still don’t know how the movie ends…
Rainie was not specifically taught to alert me when my blood sugar is high – she taught this to herself. When she does alert on my rising blood sugar, she alerts well before ketoacidosis sets in, so she’s not alerting on the fruity smell that ketones produce. I’m not sure that science knows exactly what the dogs are smelling/sensing when they alert to highs. Rainie’s alert for ‘highs’ is different than her alerts for ‘lows’ because she is very nervous when I’m high.
Here is Early Alert Canines‘ definition of what a diabetic alert dog is and what they are trained to do: “Diabetic alert dogs” are trained to be able to recognize the biochemical scent that a diabetic’s body gives off as his or her blood glucose begins to change. These dogs learn that the biochemical scent is a command to the dogs for them to carry out an “alert” action–which means that their diabetic partners can receive an early warning to help them avoid acutely dangerous hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), and curb damaging hyperglycemia (high blood sugar).
Because hypoglycemia can cause acute and severe problems (including coma and death), and because hyperglycemia can contribute to long-term diabetes complications, it is imperative for a diabetic to receive early warnings, which allow them to verify their blood glucose levels and treat themselves according to current consumer technology as advised by their physician.