I have recently become fascinated with hearing of service dogs who alert their humans to hypoglycemic episodes, prompting them to blood-test and take in carbs to prevent a dangerous low sugar event. In one case, a dog was trained to speed-dial for an ambulance, quite probably saving the unconscious owners' life.
Only a few organizations have complete diabetic alerting training programs operating, and many diabetics could benefit from this sort of assistance.
The descriptions I have read indicate that the animal (usually dogs, but sometimes cats) detect a change in scent during hypoglycemia in their assigned human. The scent is apparently from chemicals known as catecholamines (this is not confirmed). It seems reasonable that an animal could be trained to alert on a mild low using simple words like "Low Sugar" and trained to make a response, (alert me, alert me more, get help). I imagine high sugar could also be alerted on (fruity breath), or even ketones (yikes).
A friend of mine who runs a canine rescue organization helped me find some information on service dogs. I am passing this along to the D community in the hope it will help others who want a service animal and who may want to train their own pet to alert on hypoglycemia episodes or something similar.
Training a pet to be a DEPENDABLE alert/backup for you is a big challenge, but certainly worth the effort if you have a suitable companion. Good luck with these links, and please share with the group what you may learn in the process. I strongly hope this ability is something our community can develop to help each other in the future.
Delta Society : Foundation providing extensive info on service animals
Assistance Dogs International : Training Standards, and Summary of Public Certification Test
OKRehab.org : Large List of Service Dog Training Programs and Providers, by state
Yahoo group : Operant Conditioning training, with emphasis on positive reinforcement (clicker training) for Assistance Dogs (Service Dogs) trainers and partners.
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Diabetic Alerting Service Animals
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