British dogs trained to sniff out diabetes

Mon Jun 22, 2009 10:51am EDT
 
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By Georgina Cooper

AYLESBURY, England (Reuters) - Dogs are being trained in Britain as potential life-savers to warn diabetic owners when their blood sugar levels fall to dangerously low levels.

Man's best friend already has been shown capable of sniffing out certain cancer cells, and dogs have long been put to work in the hunt for illegal drugs and explosives.

Their new front-line role in diabetes care follows recent evidence suggesting a dog's hyper-sensitive nose can detect tiny changes that occur when a person is about to have a hypoglycemic attack.

A survey last December by researchers at Queen's University Belfast found 65 percent of 212 people with insulin-dependent diabetes reported that when they had a hypoglycemic episode their pets had reacted by whining, barking, licking or some other display.

At the Cancer and Bio-Detection Dogs research center in Aylesbury, southern England, animal trainers are putting that finding into practice and honing dogs' innate skills.

The charity has 17 rescue dogs at various stages of training that will be paired up with diabetic owners, many of them children.

"Dogs have been trained to detect certain odors down to parts per trillion, so we are talking tiny, tiny amounts. Their world is really very different to ours," Chief Executive Claire Guest told Reuters TV.

The center was started five years ago by orthopedic surgeon Dr John Hunt, who wanted to investigate curious anecdotes about dogs pestering their owners repeatedly on parts of their body that were later found to be cancerous.   Continued...

 
<p>A dog runs along the beach after sunset in Cardiff, California December 5, 2007. REUTERS/Mike Blake</p>