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- There are two different levels of service dogs for people with diabetes, medical response dogs and diabetic alert dogs.
Medical response dogs for diabetes are trained to respond to signs that an owner may be experiencing low blood sugar levels, once they have become symptomatic. A diabetic alert dog, on the other hand, is trained to recognize changes in a person’s blood chemistry, which often allows the dog to alert the person or the caregivers to take action. Dogs are trained to react in different ways to an owner who is having a high or low blood sugar episode. Some examples are, holding a particular toy in their mouth as a signal, jumping on the owner, or touching the owner with the its nose.
- A trained diabetic service dog can sense the changes in blood sugar levels up to a half hour before a blood glucose monitor reveals the readings
Dogs possess an incredibly powerful sense of smell. A trained diabetic service dog (also called diabetic alert dogs), as a result, can detect odors that diabetic individuals produce when in a hyperglycemic (high blood sugar) or hypoglycemic (low blood sugar) state. Scientific research determined the smelling potential of dogs with the olfactometer. A dog’s sense of smell is said to be a thousand times more sensitive than that of humans. A dog has more than 225 million scent receptors in its nose (humans have 5 million). This anatomy combined with the dog’s natural drive and desire to hunt prey for a food reward, enables us to train a dog to discriminate a distinct scent.
- Because diabetic alert dogs are service dogs, they receive standard service dog training.
As diabetes alert dogs fall into the category as service animals, they are allowed to accompany their handlers in all public places such as grocery stores, shopping malls, restaurants, hotels, schools, health clubs, swimming pools and hospitals as long as they are well-behave and under control. At the same time, they are allowed to accompany the handlers on public transportation. Under Air Carrier Access Act, service dogs can fly for free with their handlers.According to the American Disabilities Act (ADA), businesses and organizations that serve the public must allow people with disabilities to bring their service dogs into all areas of a facility where customers are allowed to go. Diabetes is covered under this law. Your dog may accompany you in grocery stores, shopping malls, restaurants, hotels, schools, health clubs and on public transportation
- Training for diabetic service dogs can take a year or more and most dogs receive placement between the ages of 18 and 24 months.
Training doesn’t start for diabetic service dogs until they reach at least 6 months old. That’s adolescence in dog time, when they are no longer puppies but have several months to go before reaching adulthood. Training can take a year or more and most dogs receive placement between the ages of 18 and 24 months. The first step involves obedience training – a must for any dog. Beyond the basic obedience lessons, diabetic alert dogs learn a series of hand signals and verbal commands. The patient later learns these signals and commands for dealing with the dog.
- Under ADA regulations, service animals are not required to wear a vest, ID tag, or specific harness to be identified as service animals.
Having said that, many people put a vest or identification tag on their service dog to avoid the confrontation from business owners’ questioning. At the same time, it makes it clear for other people that their service dog is currently on duty and cannot be distracted. By having a bright vest with labels “Service Dog” and “Do Not Pet”, you will have an easier time fending off strangers who want to come over to pet your service dog and distract it from performing its duty.