Tuesday, October 29, 2013

What is a DAD smelling?

As trainers and families of DADs, I encourage you to chime in... (comment below!) Or hop on over to--> DIABETIC ALERT DOG ADVICE  on Facebook where the convo is already up and running!

It's out: Our dogs are not smelling "the lows and highs" of our Type Ones.

When I first stumbled across this information, I didn't believe it! I thought out loud, "These dogs WORK, they are RELIABLE!" So how do we combat this research and these findings?...
"Dr. Bill Quick (who recently debunked the DAD/hypoglycemic scent connection) through a research project reports:
The closest is a survey by researchers at Queen's University Belfast, which found that 65 percent of 212 people with insulin-dependent diabetes reported that when they had a hypoglycemic episode their pets had reacted by whining, barking, licking or some other display.
No one seems to agree on what these dogs are sensing; options that have been discussed by pediatric endocrinologists include:
1)       Behavior changes
2)       Low blood sugar
3)       Changing blood sugar
4)       High blood sugar
5)       Ketones
6)       Some other esoteric chemical or chemicals that are unique to hypoglycemia.

What do we know for sure that dogs can do?
1)       They can occasionally react in various ways when owners with diabetes have abnormally low blood sugar levels -- but that doesn’t mean they react predictably to lows, nor does it mean that expensive training programs can teach dogs to react reliably to lows.

2)       They have reduced parental anxiety about hypoglycemia.

3)       They (or more correctly, the trainers) have persuaded parents (and occasionally, insurance companies) to part with many thousands of dollars."
* links to info above found at end of article

Kristin Tarnowski**, founder of Dogs Assisting Diabetes in Forest Grove, OR, is the trainer and provided the dogs from Dr. Quick's research that "de-bunked" the DAD/hypoglycemic smell connection. She is a certified professional dog trainer, has an undergraduate degree in animal sciences and a masters in education. All of her training is (as she claims) "science based and constantly evolving." Tarnowski also spent 12 year with Guide Dogs for the Blind. She has given permission to share her perspective on why she believes this was such a bust for her dogs:

"I was involved in this research and was devastated by the results. There are plans to conduct future studies, but funding is required to make such a research happen. The dogs used in the study were all trained by me and lived in the home of a diabetic adult or child. The dogs had been working as service dogs anywhere from one year to three years. The problem with the results was not the dogs, but the methods. They collected scent samples and ran the dogs thru by having them walk into an empty surgical suite at the hospital. On the floor was a scent, either actual or placebo and a doorbell that the dogs were trained to ring as alerts. The dogs were run thru time after time, exhausting sixty samples and the dogs. For those of you that have trained or worked with scent dogs, this is exhausting. The other problem was the study removed the human component of the dogs training, forcing him into an unnatural environment, without people. These dogs are all still living with their people and working very accurately with them as diabetic alert service dogs. I am hopeful that this study will be done in a way that is less science and takes into account the fact we are dealing with animals that live and breathe to be with humans. We cannot expect them to fully adapt at the flip of a switch to alerting on pieces of plastic in an empty surgical suite.... I am very sad these results are out because it gives the wrong portrayal of a DAD. If anyone would like to talk with me more about this study or if anyone has ideas on where to gain funding for future studies I would love to talk. I know the doctors at OHSU are eager to continue the study, they just need funding."

Tarnowski concludes with: "When I agreed to do this research study, my hope was that it would lead to more studies which would eventually validate the dogs scientifically so insurance companies would have to cover their cost. From that point, I want to see a training standard established and enforced somehow. I follow all training out lined by IAADP but few do and even those guidelines are so vague. I want to be part of that movement and if there are people out there with ideas, I would love to contribute wherever I can." (taken from FB group Stop the Scammers conversation on Dr. Bills' work )

Tarnowski was part of another research program from Pacific University in Forest Grove, OR. The results are noted in the pictures below and she believes, "The body goes thru a metabolic change. It makes sense in understanding physiology. When a person goes thru different experiences, different chemicals are always being produced or taken away."
She says, "I haven't seen research to prove this, but I have been told that dogs smell independent compounds. For example, when I smell a stew cooking, I smell stew and that is all my brain registers. With a dog, I have been told, they will smell barley, beef, pepper, etc. The dog doesn't just smell stew. That is my understanding of how these dad dogs work. They don't smell a human, they smell each chemical that makes a human. I am only teaching them to react to two chemical presences or absences... (She is teaching both "lows" and "highs") 
Kristen explains, "I teach the dogs to recognize both the low and high. I actually say they learn three because they need to know normal as well. When a dog is not actually alerting he is still communicating with you, telling you that there is normal scent present. So in reality, the absence of an alert behavior is an alert that there is normal blood glucose range. I use this concept in follow-up continued education on the dogs."
What do we say now?
"My child's blood sugar fluctuates and their sniffer dog will be able to alert him before it gets too dangerous."

Most times? Yes.
Every time? No.

Diabetic Alert Dogs are not 100%, they are not perfect, and most families are fortunate to get a dog that alerts over 85% of the time.

Could your DAD be a life-saving tool? Absolutely. Could your child be "dead in bed?" without their canine companion? Probably not.
Among the country's best and brightest Endo's and pediatric teams out of Boston, the "dead in bed" theory has also been debunked. Most children who died were also suffering some other unknown (at the time) condition.

What happens when "smelling the blood sugar" and "dead in bed" are removed from our vocabulary?
  • my child has another tool among many to help manage their diabetes
  • this canine companion is going to be a "plus" for my child when they are sick or hurting emotionally
  • We want to utilize any and every resource for our diabetes management, and a dog makes sense for us
They should be realistic from the start, as is. Are you hoping for a "life-saving dog?" If that came in a written contract from any organization that these dogs are THAT reliable, you couldn't put a price or cap on my fundraising efforts. And no cost would be too outrageous.

editor's note: More DAD organizations are recognizing the importance of dog/handler bonding. DAD waiting lists taking 2-3 yrs by most organizations are not as common throughout the industry. 
SCENT IMPRINTED puppies are going out to their handler's as young as 10-12 weeks/months, and working for their handlers, (with local trainer follow up.) One year old pups have been known to begin "scent training" at 14-16 months with other well-known organizations.


No comments:

Post a Comment