Diabetics receiving help from special dogs - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Your Health

Diabetics receiving help from special dogs

Posted: Updated:
Diabetics receiving help from special dogs (WFSB) Diabetics receiving help from special dogs (WFSB)

Diabetics face many challenges each day and their lives constantly revolve around keeping their blood sugar levels in check.

There is a new four-legged resource that is becoming quite helpful in the diabetic world, playing a live-saving role.

Lindy Zulick is part of the 9 percent of the U.S. population with diabetes. She has Type 1 and has learned to live with it after she was diagnosed at age 12.

“It's just something that happened, and I'm taking care of it,” Zulick said, adding that living with diabetes is anything but easy. “I get more frustrated with the highs than the lows. When I'm low, it's such a quick fix; but when I'm high I feel like it just takes forever to come down.”

Zulick’s quality of life improved drastically after she discovered the “Diabetic Alert Dogs.”

“You hear of guiding eyes dogs, there are dogs for hearing, seizures, etc.; But diabetes alert dogs is relatively new,” said Jody Filonovich, trainer and owner of Dog Works Service Dogs LLC.

Certified trainers teach specific dogs how to pick up a diabetic’s unique scent by using the set samples of the owner. The technique helps the animal distinguish when there is a swing in the blood sugar.

“A diabetic systemically has those odors going through their body, feet, knees, and groin. Dogs can pick up every component that makes any scent up,” Filonovich said.

The dogs usually alert their owners by nuzzling or constantly pawing at them.

Zulick’s dog is named Abby, and actually alerted her two weekends ago while she was at a Christmas festival.

“They will catch things that you would normally ignore until it really became a crisis,” said Becky Causey, who is the president of the Diabetes Alert Dog Alliance, who watched her own son use a diabetic alert dog. “The security of knowing--if it's just him home alone--someone is there to keep an eye on him...it's everything to me!”

“There have been a few times where my meter said that I've been 150, but the dog says I'm low--and then a few minutes later I'm in the 60s,” said Matthew Causey.

As for the process on getting a diabetic alert dog, it can be selective and a bit costly, and a huge commitment.

“The dogs take 18 to 24 months to be trained; this isn't something you take lightly,” Filonovich said.

After the dogs leave their trainers, it is up to the owners to continue the same level of training throughout the dog’s life.

“If I'm lucky and I don't have a low for a couple days, I use the tin with the scent sample and I just use that to keep her sharp,” Zulick said.

The dogs do not replace medical equipment and doctors, but they can change a person’s mood in an instant.

“She's not only my diabetic alert dog...if I'm sad she makes me happy, if I'm happy she makes me happier,” Zulick added.

For more information, click here.

Copyright 2015 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.