Navigating life is rough for anyone — but things are even more difficult when you are living with a chronic medical condition. Sure, people can turn to modern medicine and therapy for relief, but there’s also another way to bring hope into their lives. We’re talking about service dogs.
Service dogs are nothing new. We have relied on dogs’ keen senses for thousands of years, but not until recently have we realized just what an amazing resource our pets can be for medical purposes. Your family pet will probably not be much help unless he or she goes through extensive training, but dogs are being trained to help control, monitor and manage more medical conditions than ever, and the results are pretty incredible.
Take, for instance, Jedi. This dog has taken the internet by storm because of his heartwarming relationship with his young human, Luke. Luke has Type 1 diabetes, which requires frequent tests to monitor his blood sugar levels. Luke’s mother recently shared a photo on Facebook, describing the night Jedi saved her son’s life.
Thanks to Jedi’s quick action, Luke’s mother was alerted to his drop in blood sugar, and a seriously dangerous situation was prevented.
Jedi isn’t an average dog that just happens to be able to sense an unsafe change in his favorite human’s blood sugar levels. He is a service dog that has been trained to detect changes in Luke’s blood sugar levels and alert his family when these changes occur. Jedi is not the only service dog that helps diabetics — organizations like Eyes Ears Nose and Paws train dogs to smell a change in their owner’s blood sugar level and alert them when their sugar levels fall out of a safe range.
Pups are proving to be a valuable resource for people with a wide variety of medical conditions. Here are five other medical conditions you probably never knew a service dog could help control.
People have been enjoying dogs’ calming natures for centuries, but this calming effect is especially helpful for children with autism. Organizations like Autism Service Dogs of America train and pair dogs with autistic children to help them improve their social skills and feel more safe and secure when they are in public.
How can dogs help people with a breathing condition? They sense when their owner is experiencing an asthma attack and can be trained to alert someone nearby or press an emergency response button. Asthma attacks can be triggered by a number of environmental factors, like pollen or dust. A dog’s keen sense of smell can alert their owner when they may be approaching something that could possibly induce an attack.
There are two specific types of service dogs for people who suffer from seizures: response dogs and alert dogs. Similar to asthma service dogs, seizure response dogs will seek out help from others or activate an emergency button when their owner is experiencing a seizure. Alert dogs can sense a seizure coming up to an hour before it actually occurs. This early detection is key in allowing their owners to get to a safe place and seek medical help before the seizure actually happens.
4. Traumatic brain injuries
Traumatic brain injury patients can suffer from a multitude of symptoms, ranging from physical immobility to emotional distress. Service dogs assist their owners with balance and mobility, help them get dressed and can even help with daily chores, like cleaning. TBIs are often accompanied by mental side effects, like anxiety and depression, as well. Dogs give their owners a great sense of calming comfort and are a great companion during times of emotional distress.
Lupus is an autoimmune disorder that can cause extreme fatigue, joint pain and even memory loss. When a lupus flare-up causes someone to feel weak and tired, a service dog can help open doors for them, pick up dropped items and even assist with grocery shopping. They can also assist with joint pain by allowing their owner to put some of their weight on the dog when they need to get up from a seated position.
Originally published May 2016. Updated July 2017.