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April 14, 2002

Hypoglycemia

Question from Tel-Aviv, Israel:

My seven year old son was diagnosed 10 months ago, and some time ago, I heard that dogs can be trained to recognise hypos in children mainly at night. Are you familiar with this? If yes, where can I read about it?

Answer:

I know of no advance on what has already been said, although, even if there are no formal studies, there are still some believers (See New alarm system for diabetics – Dogs!!).

You might talk to your son’s diabetes doctor about the use of the new peakless Lantus (insulin glargine) for nighttime control. This usually is also used with Humalog or Novolog to contain postprandial glucose peaks.

DOB

[Editor’s comment: See Medical Assistance Dogs and Mimi Chen, Mark Daly, Natt Williams, Susie Williams, Candy Williams, Gareth Williams. Non-invasive detection of hypoglycaemia using a novel, fully biocompatible and patient friendly alarm system BMJ; 2000 321:1565-1566 (23 December).

SS]

[Editor’s comment: There was a follow-up comment in the BMJ from a trainer:

We have recently trained a hypoglycaemia alarm dog who is successfully alerting his owner to hypoglycaemic episodes. However, our experience in training this dog and other dogs trained to provide warnings of epileptic seizures suggests that caution must be exercised in promoting the use of dogs in this way. In the absence of specialised training a dog is likely to respond unpredictably and may even behave aggressively towards its owner, resulting in potentially disastrous consequences for both dog and owner.

The British charity, SUPPORT DOGS, trains dogs to assist people with a variety of disabilities. Our experience suggests that dogs must be carefully selected and then specifically trained for the work they do. In training dogs in these specialised roles, we must initially condition the dog to overcome his/her instinctive survival strategy towards a hypoglycaemic episode or epileptic seizure and teach the dog to provide an appropriate warning to his/her owner. It typically takes six months of training to ensure that a dog can perform this specialised role. A specially trained dog can offer people who experience unpredictable hypoglycaemic episodes or epileptic seizures the chance to live a relatively independent life. However, careful selection and specialised training are essential for the dog to assist the owner in achieving this goal.
WWQ]