Service dogs make life easier for people with a variety of problems, including mental disabilities and visual and hearing impairments.
Dogs trained to help diabetics will be the focus of a seminar scheduled for Feb. 12 at the H. Odell Weeks Activities Center.
The Diabetes & Nutrition Teaching Center, an outpatient service of the Aiken Regional Medical Centers, is sponsoring the event, which will start at 3 p.m.
Canine-Med-Alert of Anderson will conduct the program.
“We want to educate diabetic educators and diabetics in Aiken County that these dogs are available,” said Bobby Asher, the company’s chief operating officer and head dog trainer. “We are going nationwide with this.”
Canine-Med-Alert trains dogs to alert their owners when the owners’ blood glucose is low (hypoglycemia) or high (hyperglycemia).
“We have several ways of alerting,” Asher said. “Some dogs paw at the person, some dogs will whine and some dogs will nudge the person’s hand. The dogs will even go as far as barking at them if the person’s blood sugar is low and the person isn’t responsive. We have a business phone that we put in the person’s home with an oversize red button on it. If the diabetic is unresponsive, the dogs will push the button for 911.”
Hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia create blood chemistry changes in diabetics. Dogs detect the changes through their sense of smell, which is much more sensitive than that of humans.
“When diabetics’ blood sugar is low, they have a kind of musky smell to them,” Asher said. “When their blood sugar is high, they have kind of a sweet fruity smell. We can’t detect those smells, but dogs can.”
Canine-Med-Alert has placed 40-45 medical alert dogs with diabetics.
The company charges $3,000 per dog for its services, which include training the dog in the diabetic’s home. The fee is less than that charged by similar companies, according to Asher.
“They do the training at their facilities and they train 20 to 30 dogs at a time,” he said. “It takes them two years, and they bring the diabetic in the last week and show them what to do. I do in-home training and the person gets the dog right from the start. They are responsible for housing and feeding the dog and taking it to the vet, which cuts my overhead tremendously.”
The training takes eight months to a year.
“They’re all kinds of dogs,” said Asher of the breeds used as diabetic medical alert dogs. “All dogs haves have a sense of smell.”
Asher plans to bring either Gabriella, Newfoundland or Porche, an English Mastiff, to the presentation at the Weeks Center.
To RSVP, call (803) 293-0023.