Dogs alert to low blood sugar

Investigation into the Value of Trained Glycaemia Alert Dogs to Clients with Type I Diabetes
Nicola J. Rooney,Steve Morant,Claire Guest

Previous studies have suggested that some pet dogs respond to their owners’ hypoglycaemic state. Here, we show that trained glycaemia alert dogs placed with clients living with diabetes afford significant improvements to owner well-being. We investigated whether trained dogs reliably respond to their owners’ hypoglycaemic state, and whether owners experience facilitated tightened glycaemic control, and wider psychosocial benefits. Since obtaining their dog, all seventeen clients studied reported positive effects including reduced paramedic call outs, decreased unconscious episodes and improved independence. Owner-recorded data showed that dogs alerted their owners, with significant, though variable, accuracy at times of low and high blood sugar. Eight out of the ten dogs (for which owners provided adequate records) responded consistently more often when their owner’s blood sugars were reported to be outside, than within, target range. Comparison of nine clients’ routine records showed significant overall change after obtaining their dogs, with seven clients recording a significantly higher proportion of routine tests within target range after obtaining a dog. HbA1C showed a small, non significant reduction after dog allocation. Based on owner-reported data we have shown, for the first time, that trained detection dogs perform above chance level. This study points to the potential value of alert dogs, for increasing glycaemic control, client independence and consequent quality of life and even reducing the costs of long-term health care.

Citation: Rooney NJ, Morant S, Guest C (2013) Investigation into the Value of Trained Glycaemia Alert Dogs to Clients with Type I Diabetes. PLoS ONE 8(8): e69921. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0069921

Editor: William Hughes, University of Sussex, United Kingdom

Received: March 25, 2013; Accepted: June 13, 2013; Published: August 7, 2013

Copyright: © 2013 Rooney et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Funding: The study was funded by the Company of Animals. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Competing interests: The authors can confirm that although the work was funded by a commercial source, The Company of Animals, this does not alter the authors’ adherence to all the PLOS ONE policies on sharing data and materials.