Did You Know Dogs can Smell Diabetes?

It is well known that dogs have a great sense of smell. They can use their highly tuned noses to provide a number of great services to humans. From drug sniffing to locating lost people in avalanches, these helpful canines have truly amazing powers. However, did you know dogs can use their sense of smell for another truly incredible purpose?

service dog trained to smell a diabetics change in blood pressure

That’s right! Among all the other wonderful things dogs do, they can also smell diabetes. More specifically, they are able to detect slight changes in your breath that signify a drop in blood sugar. Why is this important?

Dogs trained to detect drops in blood sugar are used as service dogs for people with type 1 diabetes. They can warn you if you are in danger of becoming hypoglycemic before it becomes a significant problem.

People with type 1 diabetes are at greater risk of hypoglycemia, a condition where your blood sugar drops dangerously low, than those with type 2 diabetes. If you become hypoglycemic it can lead to serious complications including:

  • Shakiness
  • Disorientation
  • Confusion
  • Unconsciousness
  • Seizures
  • Coma

How do Dogs Know When Your Blood Sugar is Too Low?

dogs use their noses to sniff out chemical changes in diabetics breath

You may be asking yourself just how do these dogs know when your blood sugar is dropping? Puppies that show a desire to work and demonstrate a gifted sense of smell are chosen to undergo scent training.


During their training these dogs learn how to detect chemical changes on the breadth of people with diabetes. These chemical changes indicate a drop in blood sugar. Although it is not clear exactly what chemical changes the dogs are able to pick up, they have proven to be effective at predicting dropping blood sugar levels.

One recent study tested several chemicals on the breath of diabetes patients at critical blood sugar levels. The study found that the chemical, isoprene, almost doubled in quantity as blood sugar levels became critical. Isoprene could be the chemical that helps dogs detect when a person is in danger of becoming hypoglycemic.

The dogs are then trained to alert you through some form of physical contact, such as pawing, when sugar levels are low. This allows you to check your blood sugar levels or get some food before problems occur.

Diabetes assist dogs also wear vests to show that they are service dogs. These vests provide extra safety precautions in case you become unconscious from hypoglycemia. If someone finds you unconscious with your service dog, in the vest they can find helpful tools for aiding you, such as:

  • A sugar source
  • Emergency contact information
  • Medical information

Service Dog Training Programs

Training programs, such as Can Do Canines, are amazing organizations that provide the training for these dogs to become adept service animals. Can Do Canines relies on donations to allow them to provide people in need with service dogs free of charge. Checkout their web page to see how you can help donate to such a noble cause.

Watch this video to see how Frieda the service dog has helped Tom live with his diabetes.

There are many service dog training programs in the United States, but it is impossible for them to train enough dogs to meet the demands for all of those in need. Because of this, typically only people with the most sever cases get service dogs.

Our hope is that one day we will be able to develop sophisticated detection devices that can help those without access to service dogs.

Diabetes Clinical Studies in Birmingham

At Achieve Clinical Research, we are conducting clinical studies on diabetes. This research helps us learn more about this debilitating disorder and test new treatments that will help people live a healthier, happier life.

woman discusses lactose intolerance clinical research
Participants will receive all patient related care free of charge. Compensation for time and travel may also be provided to those who complete a study with us. If you are interested in participating in a diabetes clinical trial, please give us a call at (205) 757-8208, or use the contact form on the right hand side of this page.



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