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Dogs trained to detect low blood sugar in diabetics

3:51 PM, Apr 20, 2011   |    comments
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You have heard about service dogs for the hearing impaired, the blind and for those who have seizures.

Now there's a local organization that trains dogs to assist those with diabetes by sensing low blood sugar on their breath.

"What we're doing here is groundbreaking work. This is not something happening all over the country," said Alan Peters of Can Do Canines in New Hope which trains all types of assist dogs. In fact, he believes his diabetes assist dog program may be the largest in the world.

For those who get these dogs, it can mean the difference between life and death.

Linda Mosier of St. Louis Park has a diabetes assist dog named Hamel. When she asks him to 'check,' it may look like a simple kiss but he's jumping up to smell her breath.

Mosier said, "I'm what is called a brittle Type 1 diabetic. I go low at the drop of the hat. And because I'm not aware, it can be a life threatening situation."

Mosier's condition is called hypoglycemia unaware. She had been able to sense her own low blood sugar symptoms until about 12 years ago. Her husband Doug Mosier said that's when the problems began.

He said, "I came home and found Linda unconscious in the yard, in the snow. And she had been there at least an hour."

Linda had many close calls. She said, "I'd get very confused and the next step was to go unconscious and I had 14 of those episodes before I got my first service dog."

Can Do Canines provided her with her first service dog, Ivan, in 2004.

And by smelling her breath, he nudged and alerted her 800 times to low blood sugar over his six years with her before he died of cancer.

That's Hamel's job now.

Peters said, "As the blood sugar starts to drop, the smell on their breath changes. You and I might even be able to smell it if we were close enough to a person but a dogs nose is so good they can smell it if they're across the room."

Peters and his staff train diabetes assist dogs by having them smell a cloth containing a sample of low blood sugar breath, a scent he said is the same for all humans.

In fact, he said," Once we train a dog to do this, they can alert to a stranger."

Hamel doesn't just sense low blood sugar breath, He retrieves too. On the day after Linda brought Hamel home, he sensed she had low blood sugar and brought her Tic Tac's without being asked.

If she says, 'Get juice,' he will get a bottle of orange juice for her. He also retrieves her husband Doug when asked and even when not asked.

Hamel has given more than love. Doug says he has given him and Linda, "peace of mind."

Hamel is named after the Hamel Lions Club which donated the funds to train him.

In fact, all of the service dogs at Can Do Canines are provided free to their owners thanks to donations from individuals, foundations and Lions Clubs.

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