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Dr Dog reporting for duty

 | June 25, 2012

Dogs can alert patients of an impending diabetes, dementia or epilepsy attack.


Dogs haven’t been called man’s best friend for nothing. More than just loyal companions, dogs are intelligent, responsible creatures that can be trained to carry out life-saving tasks for people suffering from all sorts of diseases or ailments.

While we’ve heard of dogs that assist the blind and wheelchair-bound, have you heard of dogs that can alert patients of an impending diabetes, dementia or epilepsy attack?

And there’s more that Dr Dog has up this medical coat sleeve.


Dogs in the UK are being trained to lick, nudge or stare at diabetic patients in an attempt to prompt them to have a snack or take their meds because their blood sugar has dropped. If left unchecked, this condition could result in the patient falling into unconsciousness. But how do these dogs know when to sound the alarm? Scientists think dogs can pick up the scent of chemical changes in the body when blood sugar levels are low.


Being highly sensitive to smell, dogs can even pick up the subtle scent of chemical changes in the body when someone is about to have a seizure. Dogs smell an oncoming seizure at least 40 minutes before it’s full-blown, giving ample time for an epileptic to take preventive medication or move to a safe place and lie down.

If a person does have a seizure, some dogs are trained to lie down beside the person to stop them from moving too much and hurting themselves. Some are even trained to bark to alert others for help.


Intelligent dogs like Labradors and Retrievers can be trained to prompt people to stick to timetables for food, medication and sleep so their risk of a dementia attack is reduced. These dogs are trained to paw, lick, bark or jump in a bid to alert their owners when to eat, take their pills, rest or sleep.


People with Parkinson’s disease have trouble performing simple tasks that dogs can easily do for them. These include picking up dropped items with their teeth or fetching the remote control or newspapers. Dogs have also been trained to provide balance for their owners who may sometimes be unsteady on their feet, open and shut doors and drawers or switch lights on or off with their paws.

Stroke victims

Besides creating a sense of calm, therapy dogs have been trained to understand a range of commands that allows them to help people with aphasia, a language disorder common in older adults, particularly those who’ve had a stroke. Having a dog visit is also beneficial as the physical action of petting, stroking or scratching a dog helps stroke victims rebuild their strength.


People who suffer from narcolepsy suddenly fall asleep as they go about their everyday routine. A cocker spaniel named Theo, from Chadwell, Essex in the UK has become the first dog in the world to be trained to wake up his owner, teenager Kelly Sears, when she has a sleeping fit. His modus operandi is to lick, bark or nudge her with his cold, wet nose until she wakes up. If all else fails, Theo bolts from the room to seek help. He is also learning to pick up on a change in Kelly’s scent when an attack is imminent, so he can alert her to sit down in a safe place.





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