Diabetes: dogs trained to detect signs of hyper or hypoglycemia

For the past year, the Acadia Association has been training dogs to "sniff the diabetics". Thanks to their highly developed sense of smell, these pets are indeed able to detect the signs of hyper or hypoglycemia of their masters and thus avoid serious health problems.

Will man's best friend ever become a "tool" for screening for pathologies? While for the past decade, various experiments have shown that dogs are able to detect breast or prostate cancer, they are now trained to "feel" the problems of blood sugar. For a year now, the French association Acadia educates these faithful companions so that they are able to detect the abnormalities glycemic of their masters.

The dog, "super sniffer"

Experienced for years in the United States and several European countries, this assistance to type 1 diabetics is as amazing as it is powerful, and is based on scientific work. So, in 2016, an article from the journal Diabetes Care detailed a study conducted by researchers at the University of Cambridge. These had highlighted the ability of dogs to detect volatile compounds in the breath of diabetic patients with hypoglycaemia.

Acadia's goal: to take advantage of dogs' 200 million olfactory cells to make them the future of non-invasive screening tests. The non-profit organization is working to train dogs so that they can identify the glycemic changes in the sweat and breath of their young master and thus avoid any health problem.

Because type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease affecting children and adolescents. According to the Institute for Public Health Surveillance (INV) cited by Acadia and BFM, 20,000 children would be affected by type 1 diabetes in France. A figure that is constantly increasing: in the space of 10 years, the diagnosis of children under 4 has increased by 78%.

If diabetes is not treated, hyperglycemia (too much sugar in the blood) worsens and nausea and vomiting, drowsiness and visual disturbances occur. Hypoglycemia (not enough blood sugar) can cause coma. The dog trained to detect diabetes will be able to raise the alarm by waking the person with diabetes or their loved ones before complications arise.

Reliable at 98%

Glycemic children already benefit from this canine assistance. This is the case of Hugo, 15 years and a half. Suffering from an unbalanced diabetes, he has been accompanied for some weeks by Medley, a royal nurse poodle nurse. "Hugo can fall into a coma, it's Medley who will alert me at the touch of a button that will ring in my room, for me it's a liberation, and we'll be able to give Hugo the heedlessness he did not have any more ", explains to France Inter the mother of Hugo.

But the presence of a four-legged companion able to "sniff" diabetes has a cost: about 30,000 euros for the training of each dog. Arnaud Bertrand, founder of the Acadia Association, is now looking for sponsors to continue his mission, which he considers absolutely necessary. Claiming that dogs can detect 98% of dogs with type 1 diabetes, he explains that "no medical device can replace the presence of the dog".