World Health Day is celebrated today (7 April).
Each year a theme is selected that highlights a priority area of public health, and this year that theme is diabetes.
To highlight this we thought we would take a moment to celebrate the exceptional work of the countless service dogs across the globe that make a real difference to the lives of their diabetes suffering owners.
These amazing medical alert assistance dogs are able to detect tiny changes in blood level sugar levels, to prevent medical crisis.
When assigned to diabetes patients, the trained dogs are able to sense when a person’s blood sugar level is falling dangerously low – or rising dangerously high.
They do this by detecting an odour that’s emitted by the body when those chemical changes occur.
A dog’s sense of smell is so sensitive, they can warn a patient 10 minutes before any machine can. Time is crucial and this early alert method will often prevent people from becoming critical.
The charities that train and provide the dogs should also be celebrated today. These dogs transform the lives of those and the families that they care for.
As Beatrice Timpson, a representative from Medical Detection Dogs UK, explained:
“It’s just like a guide dog or deaf dog situation, the dogs are live-in. The dog lives with the individual and sleep by their side during the night.
“The biggest changes for someone – who would have previously had to wake up every two hours or so to check their own or their child’s blood sugar.”
In instances where the patient is contained to a hospital bed within the home for long periods, the dog will be there both for company and that sense of security.
This is linked to a story that made headlines just a few weeks ago, when a Los Angeles service dog named Jedi saved the life of his 7-year-old diabetes-suffering companion.
Young Luke Nuttall was very fortunate to have his dog on high alert while everyone else was fast asleep.
Luke’s mother, Dorrie Nuttall posted the above image on Facebook and said:
“5 minutes before I took this picture we were all asleep. No alarms were going off, no one was checking blood, no one was thinking about diabetes, and it’s in those moments when our guards are down, when we are just living life, when we let our minds drift from diabetes, that it has the upper hand-and things can get scary very fast…but thankfully we have a Jedi.”
She goes on to explain how Jedi jumped on top of her to wake her up.
The dog then alerted her to Luke’s condition by bowing — a gesture he uses to indicate low blood-sugar levels. (He raises his paw to indicate higher levels, Nuttall told CNN.)
Dorrie tested Luke’s blood and saw that his levels were falling fast despite his continuous glucose monitor showing he was OK. Now wide-awake and fully aware that her son’s blood levels were bordering on critical, she was able to act and to give him the injections that he required.
Within her Facebook post, Luke’s mother finishes by saying:
“Amidst a disease that does everything in its power to make life so much harder, this is a picture of loyalty and love and perseverance. A reminder that we will not let diabetes win, that we will never give up, and that we will always fight for our children.”
And this eloquently sums up just how important diabetes service dogs are, and the major life change that they represent to long-time diabetes sufferers and their families.