The dogs that smell breath to monitor diabetes
Guide dogs stop you bumping into things, assistance dogs can pull your clothes out of the washing machine. But medical detection dogs can keep you alive.
These dogs have been specially trained to smell several cancer types. Others can gauge the blood sugar levels in diabetics, warn allergic owners away from peanuts, or detect when people with narcolepsy are about to fall asleep.
Their sense of smell is so strong that they can smell their owner's breath from another room of the house, and can even be on guard from the side of a football pitch or dance floor.
"I used to stay awake, or wake up every hour overnight, testing my blood sugars 20 times a day," says Claire Moon, who has type 1 diabetes. She used to fear not waking up in the morning because her body has stopped giving warning signs - such as dizziness or blurred vision - when her blood sugar dips dangerously low.
It's a condition referred to as "brittle", and it means that she does not know when she needs to eat something sugary to correct the situation - known as a "hypo". It means she's been constantly under threat of a loss of reasoning and maybe experiencing a seizure or a rapid fall into a diabetic coma. Her quality of life was very poor as a result, she says.
But then seven months ago, Moon, a paediatrician from Buckinghamshire, received a medical detection dog. When Magic smells his owner's breath, he knows when her glucose levels go below 4.5 on the scale, and he alerts his new owner by nudging, licking or bringing her diabetes testing kit.
Moon then tests her blood and, if he's right, has to reward the dog b Continue reading