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Labrador Trained to Warn Diabetic Girl of High Blood Sugar Level

Update Date: Mar 21, 2013 11:57 AM EDT
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For six-year-old Alena Hughes, her life savior is the family's pet Labrador, Maisie. Hughes was diagnosed with type one diabetes when she was three-years-old, and Maisie is the only one in the family that can detect when Alena's blood sugar level gets dangerously high or low. Maisie was trained to be able to detect Hughes' blood sugar level by smelling her breath, which has a different odor when her sugar levels change drastically.

According to the American Diabetes Association, type one diabetes occurs when the body cannot produce insulin and the condition is usually diagnosed in children and young adults. Insulin is needed to produce energy for the body to perform everyday activities, and thus, it is very important that people suffering from this disease monitor their blood sugar levels before suffering from life threatening situations. Maisie, who was already the family's dog was trained by the charity Medical Detection Dogs and has changed the Hughes' family forever.

"She's always hunting for that smell and as soon as she picks it up, she tells Alena," Victoria Hughes, mother, stated. "It's a unique scent that only Maisie can sense." According to the charity, Maisie already could detect the changes in odor but only needed some reinforcement to teach her how to inform Alena and her parents when the level became threatening.

Alena was first diagnosed after her mother felt that her daughter was acting very strangely for a toddler. She would not eat properly and had a strange addition to sugary things. Her mother remembers Alena always grabbing the sugary items, like juice and finishing them immediately before wanting more. When the family discovered her condition, they were required to start injecting Alena six times a day to help maintain her sugar levels.

"We had to prick her finger. She would cry and we would have to hold her down to do what we needed to do. Then we would have to inject her. I would get very upset because I felt like I was hurting her," her mother expressed.

As a way to avoid all of the injections and needles, the family turned to the charity group and instead of waiting for a dog to be assigned, they hoped that Maisie could be trained. After four months, Maisie was approved and now, the family takes the lab with them everywhere, entrusting their daughter's wellbeing on the devoted dog. 

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