Sniffing Out Diabetes
Recently, I have had the privilege of working very closely with HABRI — the Human Animal Bond Research Initiative, whose goal it is to maintain a current database of all the research done around the world that highlights the wonderful role pets can play when it comes to assisting millions of people who suffer from autism, PTSD, cardio and neurological issues, depression and more. However, it’s not only about therapy dogs helping to calm and boost morale and confidence. Its also about the wonderful work dogs are being trained to do in terms of sniffing out diseases such as cancer and diabetes.
More than five million Americans take insulin for the treatment of diabetes. For these millions failure to maintain a proper blood sugar level can lead to hypoglycemia that can result in a range of serious complications such as loss of consciousness, coma and even death. Dogs4Diabetics (D4D) is a non-profit organization that trains dogs to use their incredible sense of smell to detect the subtle scent which hypoglycemia creates. They can then warn their diabetic handler of this chemical change in their body before it can be registered by any existing technology.
“Individuals especially at risk of hypoglycemia are children who have a hard time identifying and communicating low blood sugar levels and long-time diabetics who can develop “hypoglycemia unawareness”,” says Ralph Hendrix, Director for Dogs4Diabetics. “These diabetics are unable to tell when their blood sugar is dropping to dangerous levels. These are the types of clients who can be greatly benefited from these medical-alert assistance dogs.”
The positive impact of these dogs include protection from the short term serious risk of hypoglycemia and improved blood sugar management, which helps our clients avoid the long-term risks associated with diabetes, such as blindness or amputation, as well as improved mental and emotional health.
Not only do D4D’s medical-alert assistance dogs aid their diabetic handler in improving their quality of life as individuals, but also they directly impact their families, who bear a large burden in supporting the diabetics in managing the risks of their disease. Parents with diabetic children are comforted by the support of their medical-alert dog in numerous situations such as providing a support system for children when they are away from home. Additionally the friendly reminder of a dog to check your blood sugar is often easier to accept than the perceived nagging of a parent, spouse or friend.
D4D’s mission is to train, and place medical-alert assistance dogs to support insulin-dependent diabetics avoid the acute risks associated with hypoglycemia. Its mission includes the training and support services required for the working life of the dog.
“D4D provides the dogs, the training and all follow-up services at no cost to our clients,” added Hendrix. “As you might imagine all of this does not come cheap. We estimate the direct cost with associated breeding, raising and training these dogs at $25,000 and that does not include the costs for the on-going support services we provide to clients.”
Dogs4Diabetics is dependent on a volunteer staff of 100 individuals including professional trainers for its dogs; foster families to house the dogs through the six month training program; medical professionals to assist in the selection, training and support of our clients; as well as volunteers with skills in marketing, accounting, legal services and all other areas to raise money and deliver services to fulfill their business goals. All of D4D’s remaining expenses must be covered by donations.
“There is a great demand for our medical alert dogs,” says Hendrix. “Funding this venture is an ongoing struggle and limits the number of dogs that we can supply to clients. The ultimate objective is to improve our client’s physical, mental and emotional health through the use of an assistance dog. We join the diabetic community in hoping for a cure of this disease; however, D4D’s sole purpose is to support diabetics, 24 hours a day – 7 days a week, in order to improve their lives today!”
For information on how to donate please visit Dogs4Diabetics