Diabetes alert dogs are amazing! And very accurate! I was stunned when I attended an AADE conference and was watching the former Miss America, Nicole Johnson, signing her book for attendees, with her alert dog, Lucy at her side. Lucy is a golden doodle dog, absolutely adorable. All of a sudden, as Nicole was signing a book for a lady with diabetes, Lucy became agitated and put her paw on the lady. After trying to settle her down, Nicole checked her own CGM … she was fine. So she asked the lady to check … and indeed, the lady’s BG was 65! Lucy didn’t settle for about 10 minutes after the lady took some sugar. Then Lucy went back to being the perfect, obedient, calm dog. Nicole told me that when Lucy travels on the airplanes with her, sometimes Lucy reacts when another traveler has a low blood sugar! Amazing!!!

How do they do that???

In a study at Wellcome Trust-MRC Institute of Metabolic Science at the University of Cambridge, UK reported in Diabetes Care Journal, July 2016, scientists hypothesized that domestic dogs might sense a change in volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in exhaled breath. They studied 8 female non-smoking adult T1s under controlled conditions, lowering their blood sugar levels and looking for specific chemical signatures to detect the presence of certain molecules. They found that isoprene rose significantly during hypoglycemia. In fact, in some cases, the presence of isoprene nearly doubled.

Humans are oblivious to isoprene, but the researchers figure that dogs are particularly sensitive to the chemical, and can easily tell when their owner’s breath contains too much of it. As to why the body produces more isoprene during hypoglycemia, the researchers think it’s a byproduct of cholesterol production. Still, they’re not entirely sure why this chemical rises when blood sugar gets low.

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