Can Dogs Smell Blood Sugar Levels?

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Introduction

Dogs have amazing noses. They can sniff out cancer, act as drug dogs, and most importantly, they can always smell when you're making something in the kitchen. But do you know how awesome dogs' noses truly are? 

Doggo snouts are so finely tuned, they can even smell changes in blood sugar. Pups have the uncanny ability to detect changes in human physiology with their noses and blood sugar spikes and drops are areas of their smelling expertise. In fact, dogs are so talented, they're even trained to help alert people with diabetes before their blood sugar crashes. 

Want to know more about how dogs can sniff out blood sugar? Are you interested in learning the science behind doggo noses, how they work, and how they can help prevent diabetic crashes? How about the signs your dog might be giving you that your blood sugar is crashing?

Read on to learn all about dogs, their terrific snouts, and how they can detect a spike or drop in blood sugar. 

Signs Your Dog is Smelling a Change in Blood Sugar

Dog noses are incredibly sensitive to the changes in human physiology. Because of this, behaviorists and researchers will train dogs to sniff out low blood sugar to help alert people with diabetes about potential drops or crashes. 

Not all dogs are trained by professionals, but that doesn't mean your pup isn't trying to alert you to a possible change in your blood sugar. If your dog is acting differently, he might be trying to tell you something. Look for signs like obsessive licking and sniffing. If your dog doesn't do normally do either of these things, but you find that they're stuck on them, they might be trying to get your attention. 

Keep a lookout for uncharacteristic behavior, too. Smells that mean body changes typically distress dogs, and they'll become even more distressed and put out if you ignore their requests for a response. If your dog becomes more vocal, agitated, stressed out, or anxious while they're smelling or licking you, something might be off. 

Your pup also might start barking, growling, or pawing you excessively to get your attention and make you aware of what they are smelling. Don't ignore them! They are trying to let you know that they smell something off. 

Body Language

Your dog is probably giving you tons of clues that your blood sugar levels are changing - you just have to know what to look for! Check for signs like:
  • Head turning
  • Paw raised
  • Raise ears
  • Ears drop
  • Cowering
  • Guarding
  • Barking
  • Growling

Other Signs

Here are a few other signs your dog might be giving you to alert you to a rapid, dangerous change in your blood sugar:
  • Nervousness
  • Obsessive Sniffing and Licking
  • Anxiety or Panic
  • Frantic Behavior

History of Dogs Smelling Blood Sugar Level Changes

Throughout history, dogs' noses have been used to sniff out important things. After immense research and lots of case studies, we finally understand how we can use dogs to sniff out dangerous blood sugar changes (which is especially useful for people who have diabetes). 

In one case study, a scientist recruited 8 women with type 1 diabetes and lowered their blood sugar levels (under controlled and safe conditions). They looked for molecules like isoprene (which we'll dive into in our science section below) and found that dogs are able to sniff out the rise and fall of this chemical. The dogs were able to sniff out the isoprene and the blood sugar changes in this experiment. 

The Science Behind Dogs Smelling Blood Sugar Levels

Dog noses are incredible! Not only do they have 25 times more smell receptors than humans (making their smelling abilities about 100,000 times better than ours), they also have an olfactory cortex that is about 40 times larger than a human's. 

They can smell in parts per trillion. To put that in perspective, if a drop of blood was diluted into 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools, your dog would be able to sniff out the drop of blood without a problem. 

When blood sugar drops in humans, we breathe out a chemical called isoprene - a natural chemical we also release when we breathe normally. As our sugar drops, though, the isoprene levels increase, and when those increase, the smell changes. With their superhero noses, dogs can tell that something is changing in our bodies and alert us to it.

Training your Dog to Alert You to Blood Sugar Changes

Training your dog to detect a change in blood sugar is going to require more than the normal "sit, stay" routine. In fact, it likely will take a team of certified professionals with access to medical facilities and blood samples. 

Diabetic service dogs detect low blood sugar on a human's breath or emitted through their pores. While any dog can be taught, the temperament and the intelligence of the dog are both vital to the process. 

You'll need to provide samples of low blood sugar scent in the absence of a person actually having a low blood sugar episode to provide the volume of training experience needed. Additionally, you'll need a yearly re-certification for your dog, tons of positive reinforcement, and plenty of patience.

How to React if Your Dog Alerts You to Blood Sugar Changes:

  • Talk to your vet about your dog's nose to determine if they'd be a good candidate for scent detection.
  • Work with a trainer or animal behaviorist if you want them to learn how to sniff for cancer.
  • Don't ignore what your dog is trying to tell you.
  • Reward your dog for positive reactions to scent identification.

Tell Us About Your Dog's Ability to Smell Blood Sugar Level Changes!