Dogs have the ability to sense when a human with Type I diabetes suffers a low blood sugar episode, and scientists have discovered how they are able to do this. When a diabetic is experiencing a drop in blood sugar levels, this produces a chemical that dogs are able to smell. This can alert a dog to the onset of hypoglycemia.

Many families with diabetic children have begun taking in medical alert service dogs to help monitor their children's symptoms. Speaking to the Toronto Sun, an Alliston, Ontario family discussed the benefits of having Amy, a Diabetic Alert Dog, to watch over their 14-year-old daughter Kate Beausaert while she is sleeping.

Diabetes patients run the risk of experiencing dangerously low levels of blood sugar during sleep, sometimes with fatal outcomes. Blood sugar levels within 4.0 and 7.0 millimoles per liter are viewed as safe. Should Kate's blood sugar level drop to 4.5 mmol/L or lower, Amy will alert her-and if she proves unresponsive, the dog will go wake up Kate's parents.

Diabetic alert dog owners as a whole have expressed high satisfaction and confidence in their canine guardians, according to the Endocrinology Advisor. This report was based on study results presented by Dr. Evan Los of the Oregon Health & Science University at the American Diabetes Association (ADA) 76th Scientific Sessions. Owner satisfaction rated as high as 8.9 out of 10 on the Likert scale, while confidence scored 7.9 out of 10.

Clearly, people have been highly receptive to diabetic alert dogs as healthcare monitors, even before science had managed to figure out their secret. Now, new findings from scientists at Cambridge University and the University of Oxford may finally reveal how dogs are able to detect a hypoglycemic episode.

In their paper on Diabetes Care, the university researchers pinpointed a chemical called isoprene. The level of isoprene in a person's breath tends to rise when the blood sugar in the body falters. The isoprene in the breath may be the substance that dogs are smelling when a diabetic's blood sugar level crashes.