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Dogs sniff out diabetes

Queen’s University researchers are appealing for volunteers to help investigate whether dogs can reliably detect changes in their owner’s diabetic state.

Dr Deborah Wells from the School of Psychology at Queen’s and Dr Shaun Lawson from the University of Lincoln are appealing for 100 Type One diabetics to complete an online survey. The researchers are also seeking video footage of dogs reacting to their owner’s ‘hypos’ or low blood sugar levels.

Dr Wells said: “Anecdotal reports suggest that some dogs can perform early warning of hypoglycaemia by using their sense of smell to ‘sniff out’ if their owner’s blood sugar levels are dropping.

“At present there are a couple of people in the UK trying to train dogs for hypoglycaemia detection, but scientific study of this phenomenon is sorely lacking and in much need of investigation.

“This study has the potential to be of enormous benefit to the medical profession. Knowledge amassed from the study will be used to inform the development of electronic non-invasive alert systems for this disorder. These are systems that are able to detect either decreases or increases in blood sugar levels similar to an electronic nose.”

Dr Wells added: “The video footage will be analysed to see if dogs exhibit any changes in behaviour or show alertness. We will also examine how similar these experiences are between dogs, how reliable they are and whether or not the dogs react in the same way every time their owner experiences low blood sugar levels.”

Lisa Mitchell | alfa
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