Diabetic Alert Dogs

Providing Peace of Mind …

According to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, there are over 3 million Americans with Type 1 Diabetes and each year, more than 15,000 children and 15,000 adults – approximately 80 people per day – are diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in the U.S. Diabetic alert dogs, through scent training, detect and alert for low blood sugar for clients with Type 1 Diabetes and hypoglycemic unawareness. Hypoglycemic unawareness is when the individual cannot tell their blood sugar is dropping. You and I might get a headache or become crabby, but a Type 1 diabetic feels no change at all until it’s too late. By alerting when blood sugar is dropping, our dogs can prevent an extreme low from happening and permit a person to manage their blood sugar in a timely manner. Diabetic alert dogs can prevent a person from attempting to function with reduced mental capacity, prevent dangerous lows that can lead to comas and even death. Diabetic alert dogs also provide a sense of security for those living on their own who cannot recognize when their sugar is dropping. A well-trained dog is more reliable than currently available technology for “brittle” diabetics. SDV is also developing training protocols that refine and streamline the training of diabetic alert dogs. One must be at least 12 years of age to apply for a diabetic alert dog.

Caroline and Figgy

Caroline training with her diabetic alert dog, Figgy

My name is Caroline and I am a brittle Type 1 Diabetic. This means I am unaware of dangerously low and high blood sugars, which I experience daily. I was hiking on vacation and experienced a low blood sugar [episode], and by the time I realized my blood sugar had dropped I was dangerously close to passing out. This is when I knew something had to change. I contacted Service Dogs of Virginia and was amazed to learn that dogs could be trained to alert me to these dangerous changes in my blood sugar.

This is when Fig came into my life. Fig, the wondrous working dog, is a 2-year old lab that is trained to smell the changes in my blood sugar. Over the course of a year I had been sending shirts with my scent to Service Dogs of Virginia in order to train her to my [specific] scent. When we finally met it was like we were old friends, she had recognized my smell and was able to do live alerts immediately. We have been working very well together. My blood sugars are under control and I am now able to participate in activities I enjoy that I had been previously unable to do for fear of losing consciousness. Fig has not just changed my life, she has saved my life. — Caroline training with her diabetic alert dog, Figgy

To view a Public Service Announcement about our Diabetic Alert dog program, starring another of our Type 1 Diabetic clients, Jamie, and her dog Opus, click HERE. This commercial aired in the greater Charlottesville area in late 2011.