Pets and People
8 Surprising Ways Pets Save Lives
Cats can help stave off depression and isolation, and dogs motivate you to walk more -- that's old news. But did you know there are some much more significant ways that having a pet can protect you from serious illness and help you live longer?
Life-saving pets: Dogs that warn diabetics
People who live with diabetes are vulnerable to collapse from low blood sugar, which can lead to coma. Death is a risk, too: According to Dogs4Diabetics, between 2 and 6 percent of type 1 diabetics will die from low blood sugar. And every time a diabetic's glucose level is out of control, permanent organ damage can result.
Enter diabetes service dogs, also known as diabetes alert dogs. These pooches are trained to retrieve phones, fetch and carry objects such as bottles of juice, test breath for glucose, and even act as an arm rail for someone who's fallen down. Diabetes dogs are paired with diabetics of all ages, but kids and teens with type 1 diabetes are considered particularly strong candidates because they become hypoglycemic more easily.
How do diabetes dogs do it? Dogs have such a highly developed sense of smell that they can detect a wide variety of chemical changes in the blood that affect scent. Trainers who work with diabetes dogs claim that a well-trained dog can detect blood sugar drops and elevations with 85-90 percent accuracy far earlier than diabetes test kits, allowing diabetics to bring blood sugar under control before experiencing symptoms. Impressed with these results, in 2010 the Mayo Clinic incorporated an alert dog into its facility.
Takeaway tip: Several organizations, such as Dogs4Diabetics , Can Do Canines, and 4 Paws for Ability are best known for training dogs especially for this role. To qualify for one of these service dogs, diabetes patients must go through a lengthy application and training process.