I received numerous inquiries on exactly what is a Diabetic Alert Dog (D.A.D.)…so I am going to try to explain it.
A D.A.D. in simple terms is a dog that alerts to blood glucose levels. In a normal person the average blood glucose reading falls between 80 to 120 at any given time. In a diabetic, it can be a lot higher or lower than that. Highs and lows in a diabetic are very problematic. Most diabetics that I know will tell you they prefer to be a tad on the high side to being low. Any extreme reading leaves you feeling like you got ran over by a Mack Truck! Low blood sugar is called a hypoglycemia. Here is the symptoms of hypoglycemia: “The condition called hypoglycemia is literally translated as low blood sugar. Hypoglycemia occurs when blood sugar (or blood glucose) concentrations fall below a level necessary to properly support the body's need for energy and stability throughout its cells” (http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/hypoglycemia). Symptoms of a hypoglycemic episode are described below from http://diabetes.webmd.com/tc/hypoglycemia-low-blood-sugar-symptoms
Symptoms of mild low blood sugar usually occur when blood sugar falls below 70 mg/dL and may include:
• Extreme hunger.
• Feeling nervous or jittery.
• Cold, clammy, wet skin and/or excessive sweating not caused by exercise.
• A rapid heartbeat (tachycardia).
• Numbness or tingling of the fingertips or lips.
If blood sugar continues to fall, the nervous system will be affected. Symptoms usually occur when the blood sugar falls below 55 mg/dL and may include:
• Mood changes, such as irritability, anxiety, restlessness, or anger.
• Confusion, difficulty in thinking, or inability to concentrate.
• Blurred vision, dizziness, or headache.
• Weakness, lack of energy.
• Poor coordination.
• Difficulty walking or talking, such as staggering or slurred speech.
• Fatigue, lethargy, or drowsiness.
The symptoms of severe low blood sugar develop when blood sugar falls below 35 mg/dL to 40 mg/dL and may include:
• Seizures or convulsions.
• Loss of consciousness, coma.
• Low body temperature (hypothermia).
Prolonged severe hypoglycemia can cause irreversible brain damage and heart problems, especially in people who already have coronary artery disease. If emergency medical treatment is not provided, severe hypoglycemia can be fatal.
As a diabetic who for some reason yet to be determined has had many hypos…………..they stink!!!!!! I have always been energetic, active, and on top of things. The last 10 months I have been stupid!!!!!! I can’t remember stuff and it feels like I am living in a fog, my quality of life went to the tank…but back to the dogs!!!
A DAD alerts to a low blood glucose and some even alert to high blood glucose. The science behind it all has not yet caught up with the action of what the dogs are doing. After they detect the scent of the low or high they then cue the handler or other designated person as to which it is. The possibility of alert cues is endless. Different dogs do different things.
My D.A.D.’s are Bravo and Radar. Bravo is a 4-year-old Chesapeake Bay retriever and Radar is a 1 year old Parson Russell Terrier. Bravo’s low alert signal varies slightly as to what I am doing at the time of the hypo. If I am sleeping he will gently paw at me then whine, bark, or lick to get me awake. (I AM A VERY SOUND SLEEPER!) If I am sitting he will place his head on my knee and stare (the kind of stare that goes clear to your soul). If I am moving he will literally stop me and refuse any other command to go forward or do anything else. Bravo came up with these alert cues all on his own…I just had to figure out what he was telling me. It is my belief that he chooses these cues as a result of his training as that is how we communicate with other things. More about Bravo’s alerts later. Radar was a whole different story. I began to notice him mimicking Bravo when I was low…so I decided to make a conscious effort to train him on alerting. Radar is a very aggressive alerter…I don’t know if he will ever make it as a full service dog but he is sure handier at night! Radar is young and is still learning but his alert is to paw or dig at me when the pawing doesn’t work. When I am sitting in the chair he will jump up on the back on my chair and start patting my head with his right paw. If I don’t get the message it he pats at my ear and bumps me with his nose. When I am sleeping it seems he goes straight for my face…since I am a sound sleeper I can’t tell you what all he tries to get my attention but I can tell you what wakes me…Radar digs at my head.
Nighttime alerts are the most interesting to me and often the hardest to teach. Anyone who knows me well will vouch for the fact that you do not touch me to wake me up in the middle of the night or you are liable to get hit. I tend to be reactive about that…hmm maybe that is why I am not married! Anyhow the fact that both of the dogs are willing to risk my wrath speaks volumes.
In later posts I will share with you some of the situations that my dogs have alerted in. So keep on coming back!