American Association for Clinical Chemistry
Better health through laboratory medicine
NACB - Scientific Shorts
NACB - Scientific Shorts (formerly NACB Blog)
By William E. Winter, MD, DABCC, FACB
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Our departmental laboratory recently became aware of a local start-up company that wanted to "Introduce Breath Analysis into Clinical Pathology Laboratory Testing."

During the on-line conversation, a staff member wrote: "My friend swears his dog knows when his diabetic son’s blood sugar is off."

Is this possible? Can a dog detect poor diabetic control?

 

Response (posted November 7):

Ketosis (which occurs with poor diabetic control) can be detected in breath. Since dogs have a better sense of smell than humans, I would believe that a dog could detect ketosis.
 

 

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Posted by
On 11/9/2011

It may be possible. I think there will be research going on to develop breath test for certain diseases near future. This comment was approved by the NACBLOG editorial board. Please remember to add your name and affiliation!

Posted by
On 11/4/2011

The WSJ reported in September of a rat that can smell positive Tb smears better that techs can screen them. Dogs can detect patients having myocardial ischemia before symptoms. The English are studying dogs smelling urines positive for bladder cancer cells. We had a therapy dog who visited nursing homes and alerted at the door of a women having a "silent" MI. When he would not move, staff sent her to the hospital, where she was diagnosed. Cynthia Bowman MD

Posted by
On 11/4/2011

Dogs are very sensitive not only to odours but also to behaviour. As any dog trainer will tell you dogs can be react to the tiniest cues from their owners. Even if it turns out that dogs are cued by behaviour, not smell it does not detract from the very real possibility that a hypoglycaemic event will change the composition of a patient's breath. Whether that's detectable with existing analytical techniques in a way that can be helpful for patients is another matter. J. Rueda

Posted by
On 11/3/2011

Having Type I diabetes, I volunteered a few years ago for an organization in Chapel Hill, NC. They are training dogs to alert owners. I was sent individually wrap sterile gauze which I used one everytime I tested my glucose. They results were recorded on a zip-lock bag containing the gauze. Susan Utley, MT (HEW) Duke University Health System

Posted by
On 11/3/2011

Yes it is possible. I work in Regulatory at a major IVD company. A former co-worker of mine (W.) had two service dogs (one in service, one in training) that he brought into work every day, who were trained to signal whenever he experienced precipitous hypoglycema. He was on my floor and we greeted the dogs daily. I was out of the office at the time, but I heard of at least one case where the dogs did their job; a coworker made W. drink some juice and all was well. This comment was approved by the NACBLOG editorial board. Please remember to add your name and affiliation!