Living with diabetes blog

Diabetes service dogs provide valuable help

By Nancy Klobassa Davidson, R.N. and Peggy Moreland, R.N. June 5, 2010

Dogs were in the headlines recently at Mayo Clinic with the release of the book "Dr. Jack the Helping Dog," which features a 9-year old pincher who is Mayo's first, and only, facility-based service dog.

Also, a new friend of mine, Jean, is the owner of a beautiful English Yellow Labrador named Koda who is a therapy dog. What's the difference between a diabetes therapy dog and a diabetes service dog?

Therapy dogs are trained to provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes, mental health facilities, schools, and stressful situations such as disaster areas.

Service dogs are trained for 3 roles:

  • Guide dogs assist the blind or visually impaired.
  • Hearing dogs assist the deaf or hard of hearing.
  • Service dogs assist the disabled by retrieving objects, pulling wheel chairs, turning off light switches and performing other tasks.

Diabetes service dogs also provide valuable help. For years, as a diabetes educator, I've heard stories from patients who have pets about how their pet alerted them to impending low blood sugar (hypoglycemia).

Diabetes service dogs are trained to:

  • Pick up and carry objects such as juice bottles
  • Retrieve cordless phones
  • Test breath for low blood sugar
  • Act as a brace to help a person get up after having fallen

Several programs train diabetes service dogs for individuals with type 1 diabetes, including Dogs4diabetics and Can Do Canine. Both of these service organizations have specific criteria that must be meet before a service dog is placed with someone. Also, dogs are restricted to specific regions or states. If you know of other organizations that provide diabetes service dogs, please let us know.

A person with a diabetes service dog said on the Dogs4Diabetic's Web site:

"The best part for me is that when she helps me, it's non-judgmental."

Everyone have a good week, and please share your story. Signing off for now,

Nancy

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Jun. 05, 2010