Reliability of Trained Dogs to Alert to Hypoglycemia in Patients with Type 1 Diabetes

Evan A. Los, Katrina L. Ramsey, Ines Guttmann-Bauman, Andrew J. Ahmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Background: We examined the reliability of trained dogs to alert to hypoglycemia in individuals with type 1 diabetes. Methods: Patients with type 1 diabetes who currently used diabetes alert dogs participated in this exploratory study. Subjects reported satisfaction, perceived dog glucose sensing ability and reasons for obtaining a trained dog. Reliability of dog alerts was assessed using capillary blood glucose (CBG) and blinded continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) as comparators in 8 subjects (age 4-48). Hypoglycemia was defined as CBG or CGM <70 mg/dL. Results: Dog users were very satisfied (8.9/10 on a Likert-type scale) and largely confident (7.9/10) in their dog's ability to detect hypoglycemia. Detection of hypoglycemia was the primary reason for obtaining a trained dog. During hypoglycemia, spontaneous dog alerts occurred at a rate 3.2 (2.0-5.2, 95% CI) times higher than during euglycemia (70-179 mg/dL). Dogs provided timely alerts in 36% (sensitivity) of all hypoglycemia events (n = 45). Due to inappropriate alerts, the PPV of a dog alert for hypoglycemia was 12%. When there was concurrence of a hypoglycemic event between the dog alert and CGM (n = 30), CGM would have alerted prior to the dog in 73% of events (median 22-minute difference). Conclusions: This is the first study evaluating reliability of trained dogs to alert to hypoglycemia under real-life conditions. Trained dogs often alert a human companion to otherwise unknown hypoglycemia; however due to high false-positive rate, a dog alert alone is unlikely to be helpful in differentiating hypo-/hyper-/euglycemia. CGM often detects hypoglycemia before a trained dog by a clinically significant margin.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)506-512
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Diabetes Science and Technology
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2017


  • continuous glucose monitor
  • dog
  • hypoglycemia
  • type 1 diabetes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Bioengineering
  • Biomedical Engineering


Dive into the research topics of 'Reliability of Trained Dogs to Alert to Hypoglycemia in Patients with Type 1 Diabetes'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this