Man's best friend is good for many things: games of fetch, couch cuddles, and now potentially preventing dangerous health hazards for diabetes patients. Researchers at the University of Cambridge recently found that dogs' heightened senses of smell could be utilized to detect a chemical that is released during hypoglycemic episodes.
These episodes occur when a type 1 diabetes patients' blood sugar levels drops to dangerously low levels, but scientists suggest that canines can be taught to help prevent these threatening health conditions. According to UPI, hypoglycemic episodes can occur with very little warning and bring about fatigue, disorientation, and shakiness—and at their worst, seizures. While type 1 diabetes patients test themselves multiple times a day to monitor their blood sugar levels due to their bodies' inability to produce insulin, hypoglycemia can occur swiftly and unexpectedly.
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The study, which was published in the journal Diabetes Care, suggests that our furry friends could help manage these outbreaks. When a hypoglycemic episode occurs, a person exhales higher levels of a certain chemical. Having heard reports of dogs seemingly sensing drops in blood sugar, the scientists at the University of Cambridge tested to see if dogs could detect the change in their owners' breath. Claire Pesterfield, a pediatric diabetes specialist nurse who had experienced this phenomenon herelf with her dog, Magic, aided in the study. "Magic is incredible—he's not just a wonderful companion, but he's my 'nose' to warn me if I'm a risk of hypo," she says, adding that low blood sugar is a constant daily threat to her.