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Diabetes Dogs: K9 Insulin Monitors

Specially trained service dogs can alert diabetics to dangerous blood sugar levels.

(KNBC) Sophomore Luke Van Ginkel is the kicker for California's top-ranked Upland High School Football team, and on the sidelines at every practice and game, watching his every move, is his lifesaver and service dog Astro.

Astro's job is to sense when Van Ginkel's blood sugar dips to a dangerous level.

Van Ginkel has Type 1 Diabetes, and his blood sugar can fall without warning, especially when he is asleep. If it gets too low, he could die if he doesn't address it quickly.

That's where Astro comes in. He has been trained to alert Van Ginkel and his family when he senses a potentially dangerous drop in Van Ginkel's blood sugar.

"I was asleep, he started whining a lot, and woke me up, and I told my mom I was feeling low. And she tested me I turned out to be low," Van Ginkel recalled.

Astro was trained at Canine Hope for Diabetics, where the dogs are taught to be obedient and alert. From the time they are puppies, they are taught to recognize the scent of low blood sugar, according to Johanna Reynolds from Canine Hope for Diabetics.

But how they do it still a bit of a mystery.

"It's still being investigated," Reynolds said. "The thought at this point is that the dog can smell the chemical change in the body that's a result of fluctuating blood sugars."

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