26 August 2013

Diabetes Service Dogs Work

Dr. Bill Quick seems to have passed on this study. Maybe this is because the study was done in the UK and is reporting positive results. I had to put in this dig, but Dr. Quick is a scientific minded person and has no time for things research has not proven. Whether this is a strength or a weakness depends on your beliefs as well.

Having observed diabetes service dogs in action and having one alert on me while visiting a person with a diabetes alert dog, leaves no doubt in my mind that a properly trained diabetes service dog is capable of being another tool for those that need this assistance. I have read about diabetes service dogs that were not properly trained and a State of Missouri lawsuit against a seller that was not selling properly training dogs.

The study was published in PLOS ONE. Unfortunately, the issue date is not given, but some research located it. The full abstract and study may be read here. As stated, this study is the first of its kind. It analyzes whether trained dogs can accurately and consistently serve as an early-warning system.

Seventeen dogs trained by Medical Detection Dogs, a UK charity that works with researchers and universities and trains dogs for several medical diseases. In this study, the researchers collected data from the owners to analyze whether the dogs were accurately able to respond to their hypoglycemic levels. They also checked whether the owners experienced better blood glucose management.

The results show that all 17 owners reported positive outcomes, including: Fewer paramedic calls, fewer unconscious episodes, and improved independence. “Lead author Dr. Nicola Rooney says: "Despite considerable resources having been invested in developing electronic systems to facilitate tightened glycemic control, current equipment has numerous limitations."

"These findings are important as they show the value of trained dogs and demonstrate that 'glycemia alert dogs' placed with clients living with diabetes, afford significant improvements to owner well-being, including increased glycemic control, client independence and quality-of-life, and potentially could reduce the costs of long-term health care."

The important point of the study is that it confirms that trained detection dogs perform better than the chance level, meaning the level that would be expected if random choices were made. The amusing fact it that as of yet, no one can figure how the dogs are able top detect the change since an odor, sweat, or breath has been detected, except by the dogs.

Dr. Nicola Rooney does state that further research is needed. Of course, they want to see if they can determine how the dogs are able to this. Most previous studies focused on hypoglycemia only, but this study also considered hyperglycemia. Some dogs had started to alert at times of high blood glucose. This was important to the researchers because this meant that there was less time between highs and lows. Therefore, the researchers check the medical records from before and after dog allocation.

The types of dogs in the study included six Labrador Retrievers (LR), one Golden Retriever (GR), two LR/GR cross, one Poodle, one Collie Cross, two Labradoodles, one Lurcher, one Cocker Spaniel and one Yorkshire Terrier.

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