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June 3, 2000

Hypoglycemia

Question from Colorado, USA:

My husband is 27 and a type 1 diabetic. I have noticed that sometimes I can smell that he is going hypoglycemic. A friend told me that dogs can be trained to warn someone that their blood sugar is getting too low, but I am having difficulty locating information on such dogs. Do you know who I might contact for more information?

Answer:

The word ‘hypoglycemia’ and ‘hyperglycemia’ can sound very much the same when spoken and whilst I can understand dogs being trained to detect ketone bodies in ketoacidosis, I don’t know what volatile compound could alert them to hypoglycemia. This doesn’t mean to say that you yourself may not have this ability because there is good documentation that some humans have an especially developed sense of smell. At all events I have no knowledge of where you might find a trainer.

In any case, if your husband is having problems with hypoglycemia it is important to do enough blood sugars to find out at what time of day he is vulnerable to this drop in blood sugar and to talk to his doctor about any changes that may be needed in his insulin dose, diet, or exercise schedule. This includes changes to deal with hypoglycemia unawareness.

DOB