Service Dogs for Diabetes: We’ve all seen service dogs that allow the blind and deaf to enjoy some normalcy in their lives. Now service dogs are being trained to help those with Type 1 diabetes determine when their blood sugars are either too high or too low.
According to King5.com 14 year-old Liam Kelly has a service dog named Max that has been able to accurately point Liam to use his blood glucose meter. “I personally won’t know where I’m at but someone I can rely on and trust will know,” Kelly told King5.
In a recent demonstration of how Max can detect blood sugar changes in Liam’s breath the dog was also able to correctly identify problems with audience member Ken Running who also lives with Type 1 diabetes. Running has been looking for an answer because he hasn’t been satisfied with the testing equipment he’s tried to date. Running told King5, “I’ve had extreme low blood sugars and I can’t detect them at all, to the point in the last four months, I’ve been in a coma three times and the hospital once.”
Liam’s mom, Lisa seems very pleased with the addition of the black lab to their family, “It allows me to be a mom instead of diabetes sheriff. I can sit back and not nag, ‘What’s your number? What did you do? What are you eating?”
Liam is alerted to issues when Max places his paw on his owner’s chest. When this happens Liam knows he needs to test – and take action.
The training Max received was from Ron Pace at the Canyon Crest K9 Training Center in Washington state.
According to the NewsTribune, “Using actions and rewards, the Paces taught Max to alert Kelly when his blood-sugar levels were too high (above 180 milligrams per deciliter) or too low (80 milligram per deciliter.)
“Knowing his blood-sugar level and keeping it close to normal helps Kelly prevent long-term physical complications that come with Type 1 diabetes, a disease that can’t be reversed.”
Lisa Kelly told NewsTribune that Max has, “Literally saved Liam’s life and allowed him to feel he can participate in sports or anything he wants. After football camp, Max was alerting four or five times a day. Liam thought he was fine, but the dog knew otherwise.”
Lisa and her husband, Michael, “Knew nothing about diabetes service dogs until she attended a conference on children with diabetes and met a woman with a dog who responded to her blood-sugar levels. She was convinced such a dog would give her son the healthiest life possible,” according to NewsTribune.
The couple still gets up 2-3 times a night to check on Liam, but Max catches most of the trouble Liam might encounter due to his Type 1 diabetes.
It is estimated that around 100 diabetes service dogs exist in the U.S. and there are very few trainers who specialize in this type of need.
Lisa Kelly went outside the box for Max’s training. She turned to Ron Pace who had been a dog trainer for thirty years. With the help of family (and completely donating his time) Pace was able to get Max to key in on glucose changes within 30 days.
Like most service dogs Max is on the job when he’s with Liam. Friends have had to learn to ignore Max so he can keep his senses focused on his owner’s glucose changes. Liam tells the NewsTribute he hopes to graduate from high school with Max.