Monday, April 16, 2007

Pets and Diabetic Owners

This weekend, while I was filing my taxes, I also re-discovered some pictures that were buried in an out-of-the-way directory location on my computer's hard drive. Since few of my readers have ever met my cat, Phyllis, I figured it was time to introduce her below:

They say that many people start to look and behave like their pets while their pets acquire similarities to their owners. I'm not completely sure about that, but see what you think about my recent photo:

Seriously, I had this photo taken at Epcot Center about 2 years ago, but have never shared it with anyone. But this post seems to be an appropriate time. Phyllis does not have type 1 diabetes, but she has served as my lookout on occasion. For example, sometimes when I have gone low while sleeping, she will jump onto me and start kneeding gently to wake me up. If that fails, she then starts with her claws very lightly. Since Phyllis' mother was Siamese, she acquired her exquisite vocal skills from that side of the family, and she will begin talking incessantly until I get up to test. Sure enough, she is usually right.

Cats aren't as easily trained as dogs, but nevertheless, they do have the keen sense of smell that their canine counterparts have. I wanted to let my readers know that there are a few organizations that will train dogs (or provide instructions for you to train your own dog) in order to wake their owners with diabetes in the event of hypoglycemia. Given the recent study that showed people with type 1 do not wake from hypoglycemia, it can be very useful (especially for people who live alone) to have a pet with this type of skill.

There are two organizations I am aware of who help people seeking dogs (so far, cats haven't been trained for the reason noted previously), and I wanted to share these with you. These organizations are as follows:

Heaven Scent Paws
An organization that provides trained diabetic alert dogs, or provides instruction on dog training so that the dog is able to detect & alert their diabetic partners and support team (parents, spouse, friend, etc) to both low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) & high blood sugar (hyperglycemia). Heaven Scent Paws operates nationwide for those who are interested.

Dogs for Diabetics
An organization that provides dogs who are trained to detect hypoglycemia in patients with type 1 diabetes. The organization is based in the San Francisco Bay Area, and presently only offers its services locally. Their address is 1647 Willow Pass Road, #157; Concord, CA 94520-2611; e-mail:

Finally, one of our own D-bloggers, Molly, recommended the following organization which is based in the Midwest. Her blog features more information about her experience with them and her dog. The organization's website includes info. about dogs for people with diabetes, although I did not find detail on whether they only serve a particular geographic area. Feel free to call them for more information if you're interested.

Great Plains Assistance Dog Foundation
The Great Plains Assistance Dog Foundation trains dogs to assist people with a variety of disabilities, including diabetes. Their mission is to assist individuals living with disability to gain greater independence and opportunity by use of trained working assistance dogs. Their address is 920 Short Street, PO Box 513, Jud, ND 58454, tel: (877) 737-8364 (toll free) or (701) 685-2290, e-mail


BetterCell said...

Yes.....your resemblance to Phyllis is definitely there.

Question Scott.......If you had a choice between taking a Porcine Derivative Insulin (again) or a short acting Analogue, which would you choose.
For me, the choice would be to get back on the Porcine Insulin because of the additional benefits of C-Peptide. If however, Lilly, Novo-Nordisc, Sanofi-Aventis or any other company were to develop and bring to Market an injectable form of C-Peptide, then the choice would not matter any longer.
Complications in T1DM are more about the Nature of the Disease process than just Numbers.
Complications wait for no Man.

Scott S said...

Truthfully, I have never been a big fan of insulin analogs (although I use them because there really isn't much choice remaining these days) and I do find the more rapid action analogs do enable better glycemic control without having to dose an hour before eating, but analogs are neither human nor insulin and there are no long-term studies on the efficacy ... we are the long-term studies on them, which is a scary thought.

Its a challenge to even attempt glycemic control with Regular insulin given the substantial delays in absorption caused by subcutaneous delivery, and the half-life of insulin delivered subcutaneously is hours vs. minutes with intervenously delivered insulin, so I use analogs out of practical reality, but I don't necessarily want to do do forever. I am hoping that the return to regular insulin could happen in the near future though insulin additives (such as Basulin® and Viaject™, being developed by Flamel Technologies, S.A. & Bristol-Myers Squibb and Biodel, Inc., respectively) which could spell the end to analogs in the future, as both are now in Phase III clinical trials. In the interim, I find that some degree of glycemic control outweighs returning to animal insulins (which are technically, also analogs which differ structurally from human insulin by one or more amino acids).

BetterCell said...

The animal insulin(Pork Derivative) still contained some C-Peptide which was/is tissue/membraine/organ protective in T1DM.
I suppose that the Insulin Analogue served the purpose of mass availability to 3rd world countries where animal sources might be scarce as well as dietary restrictions within the culture.

Scott K. Johnson said...

LOL!! Man - the likeness is uncanny!! Haha!!

It's been a long time since I've had a cat or dog, but I believe that once they get to know their keeper for a while, they can tell when something is not right.

I think it's fascinating and look forward to learning and hearing more about people using them to help manage.

Molly said...

My diabetes alert service dog (Dixie) is from Great Plains Assistance Dog Foundation. (

Just another resource. :-)

Scott S said...

Thanks, Mollie -- I'll add them to the list! Always good to have a list of possible resources.

Anonymous said...

Just a huge caveat when it comes to an assistance dog. The user should NEVER pay for the dog. Upkeep yes.

The organization should be self sufficient through donations, etc. If they are not, they should not be operating.

FYI: I've been involved in dog training most of my life.

Scott S said...

To Scott K. Johnson, you are right about pets getting to know their owners being able to sense when something's not right. And to Kathleen Weaver, thanks for the good advice!

art-sweet said...

Phyllis is quite the cutie!

Kerri. said...

I almost fell off my chair laughing at that picture. You and Phyllis are an adorable pair. :)