Diabetes-sniffing dogs: don't stick, lick

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I initially came across a story about diabetes-detecting dogs that suggested this was a scam, but further research has convinced me that it is, in fact, great news for those suffering with type-1 diabetes. While the science behind the phenomenon has yet to be figured out, results have proven that canines can be trained to sniff out blood sugar problems in their diabetic owners.

One organization dedicated to training dogs for this purpose is the not-for-profit Dogs for Diabetics, operating for the time being only in Northern California. Training a dog can take up to two years and $20,000, but owners claim that the early warning provided by their companion is invaluable in avoiding serious imbalance problems.

An article in the March 2008 issue of the American Diabetes Association's magazine Diabetes Forecast quoted a recent study showing that a full third of pets owned by diabetics have shown signs of distress when their owners strayed into dangerous blood sugar levels.

Until the science is understood and an organization takes responsibility for vetting the training of such dogs, I suppose scammers could jump into the vacuum with dogs that are not really trained to the degree necessary. Because of that, I'd strongly recommend not buying such dogs from private individuals or organizations that don't have a proven track record.

When I think of the problems faced by my friends with this malady, though, a diabetes-detecting dog sounds like a godsend.

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