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Dogs trained to help diabetics by tracking blood sugar levels

Training takes anywhere from four months to two years

(iStock/richcano)

ORLANDO, Fla. – Man's best friend is saving lives.

Dogs are now being trained to use their incredible sense of smell to sniff out and uncover deadly diseases.

First, it was cancer. Now, these pets are helping people take control of their diabetes. They're called diabetic alert dogs.

"He can scent my lows, or changes in blood sugar from five miles," said Dr. Jonathan Beach, a physician who uses a dog named Banting.

Cheri Campbell, a representative from the company Warren Retrievers, which trains these dogs, says the dogs are even faster than your meter.

"They can actually detect a rise or a fall up to an hour before you know it, or your meter would catch it," Campbell said. "(Banting) will just paw him or a nose nudge to let him know there is a problem."

Warren Retrievers is a non-profit based in Virginia. It trains hundreds of labs each year to detect diseases like diabetes, autism, even post-traumatic stress disorder.

Training starts when the dogs are just seven weeks old, but it takes nearly two years to get them ready.

"We breed them specifically for their scenting, personalities, and their temperament," Campbell said.

To put it into perspective: a human has five-million scene receptors, but a dog has more than 225 million.

When your blood sugar rises, your body releases chemicals that give off a very subtle scent that only dogs can detect.

"If you were to take a glass of iced tea, put a teaspoon of sugar, mixed it up, you and I could smell the sweetness of that tea," Campbell said. "If you took that same teaspoon of sugar and put it in an Olympic-sized swimming pool, (Banting) can smell that."

Doctors say the dogs are another line of defense, so diabetics and other patients can live their lives without worry.

"It's going to be an incredible learning experience for me," said Dr. Beach. "I am in this world to have fun with my family and friends, not to serve diabetes."

This kind of service is available in Central Florida.

A company named Dog Training Orlando can teach your pet to track your blood sugar levels.

The company says the training process only takes about four to six months.