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How do service dogs detect low blood sugar in diabetics?

health science Feb 28, 2023

Have you ever wondered how Diabetic Alert Dogs can detect low blood sugar? A popular misconception is that they’re smelling blood sugar levels, but the reality is there's little evidence to suggest dog’s can reliably sniff out changes in blood sugar.

 When a diabetic’s blood sugar drops too low and their glucose stores are depleted, the body resorts to burning fat reserves. In turn, ketones are produced as a by-product, and exhaled through the handler’s nose and mouth. Yes, the same ketones you hear about with ketogenic diets!

This is why Diabetic Alert Dogs trained for hypoglycemia, are trained to detect Acetone and or Isoprene, the most prominent ketones produced by the liver when burning fat reserves. This is a much more reliable method of detection. In fact, even our measly 6 million or so olfactory receptor cells, compared to a dog’s 200-300 million can detect the smell of acetone on a diabetic's breath.

Of course the key difference is a dog can detect this smell at a much farther distance away. Throw in the added benefit of companionship and its yet another reason why dog’s are man kind’s best friend.