A special dog to assist Australians with Diabetes

The countdown is on for World Diabetes Day on Monday the 14th of November and the life of 30-year-old diabetic Eliza has been changed thanks to her new special four-legged companion.

18 month old, Labradoodle ‘Sal’, is the first Diabetic Alert Dog to be trained and placed in the new Australian Lions Medical Alert Dog program.

Sal has undertaken over 12 months of training and was delivered to her new home last week.

Since the 1980s Lions has provided over 650 Assistance Dogs to deaf or hard of hearing Australians. The new Lions Diabetic Alert Dogs are being trained to alert to low blood sugar levels in asymptomatic type 1 diabetics.

“This year marks 40 years since we delivered our first Hearing Assistance Dog. We’re delighted to be celebrating another milestone with the placement of our first Australian Lions Diabetic Alert Dog,” says Australian Lions Hearing Dogs CEO David Horne.

“Over 120,000 Australians currently suffer from type 1 diabetes, and each year 580 Australians die from the disease, many under the age of 18. Diabetic Alert Dogs have the potential to save the lives of people with type 1 diabetes, and drastically improve their quality of life,” adds David Horne.

Lions Diabetic Alert Dogs are trained to indicate by touching one paw to their owner’s leg when they are experiencing a Hypoglycaemic event (low blood sugar).

Additionally, these intelligent dogs are trained to perform helpful tasks such as retrieving a Hypokit to help treat a low or high blood glucose event, seeking assistance from another member in the household on command, and pressing an alert button to call emergency services if their owner falls unconscious when they are home alone.

“Technology has come a long way in the management of type 1 diabetes, but it doesn’t often give you the peace of mind you need. Having Sal as my Diabetic Alert Dog removes the anxiety and fear of the dangers of hypoglycaemia (or low blood sugars) and will help me sleep easier at night,” says Eliza.

Diabetic Alert Dog

Lions’ first Diabetic Alert Dog, Sal. Image Credit: ABC News.

“It’s been an amazing week, both Sal and I getting to know each other and working together. Sal is already alerting to a low blood sugar event, and able to bring me treatment (glucose source) on command which is really exciting,” she adds.

Each year Australian Lions Hearing Dogs train and provide anywhere from 25-30 Assistance Dogs around the country. It’s the only Australian organisation accredited by Assistance Dogs International to carry out such work, each dog free of charge.

The organisation is expanding to ensure it can provide much needed assistance to more Australians.

“We’re very excited to be redeveloping our National Training Centre in Adelaide and will soon have capacity to train up to 120 Assistance Dogs per year,” says CEO David Horne.

Each Assistance Dog costs upward of $37,000 to train and provide to someone who is deaf or hard of hearing, or living with type 1 diabetes, and with support of Lions Clubs and donations from members of the public, the dogs are gifted to recipients free of charge.

The placement of the first Lions Diabetic Alert Dog also coincides with Lions Australia’s Lap the Map campaign where volunteers across the country are putting on their walking shoes with an aim of walking a combined distance that will exceed Australia’s circumference (25,760 kms) by World Diabetes Day on the 14th of November.

For more information on the Australian Lions Medical Alert Dog Program, click here.