James R. Speiser, DVM, DABVP, CCRT
March 8, 2017
Medical alert dogs are specially trained dogs that can detect medical conditions in people to assist them in controlling or preventing severe consequences that may occur that could be life threatening.
Medical alert service dogs have very special talents to be able to detect conditions such as low or high blood sugar (Diabetes alert dogs), impending seizures (Seizure alert dogs), severe drops or elevations in blood pressure (Cardiac alert dogs) and other conditions. This unique talent has to be detected and then further conditioned by intensive training. Many of the medical alert service dogs go through a rigorous two year training period which includes basic and advanced obedience and social skills as well as training in the specific medical alert discipline they have exhibited talent in. Once the human partner is selected for a particular dog, the dog’s training is tailored to meet the needs of their future human partner. Service dogs are considered for people that are over 12 years old who are functioning at a 6th grade level or above.
Seizure alert dogs have the ability to sense impending seizure up to an hour in advance allowing the human being to move to a safe environment to prepare for the seizure event. Furthermore, the dog can act as a stabilizing influence during the seizure by being trained to lie on or against the seizing patient to hold them still preventing injury to the body.
Diabetic alert dogs can use their sense of smell to detect a rapid and dangerous drop in blood sugar prior to a crisis developing, allowing the human being to remedy the low blood sugar before they pass out or become weak and poorly responsive.
Cardiac alert dogs are able to warn of impending severe drops in blood pressure potentially causing a loss of consciousness. By alerting someone of rapidly lowering blood pressure the dog can prevent serious physical injury to their owner and can give the person a valuable sense of comfort and security.
People with many types of disability benefit from service dogs that can be trained to provide physical assistance such as picking up dropped objects, retrieving a manual wheelchair, providing balance and stability on stairs or rough terrain, opening doors, turning on lights, and more.
There are many dog trainers for medical alert dogs, but one, Canine Partners for Life, works closely with people in need of a medical alert dog. Trained Service dogs are valued at more than $30,000; however most people needing a service alert dog pay on the order of $1000-2000 with the remaining money being paid by charitable contributors that Canine Partners for Life work with. For more information about specific service alert dogs, you can go to their website at www.k94life.org.