Medical Alert Dog Program

Australian Lions Hearing Dogs recently announced the launch of a Medical Alert Dog program, with a priority on training and providing Diabetic Alert Dogs for people who have Type 1 Diabetes.

Over 120,000 Australians struggle with Type 1 Diabetes, and each year 580 Australians die from the disease, many under the age of 18. Diabetic Alert Dogs have the potential to save the lives of children and adults with Type 1 Diabetes and drastically improve their quality of life. The Diabetic Alert Dog Program is in the early stages of development, however we expect the first dog to be available by the start of 2022.

The dogs will alert their owner by touching them with one paw when their blood glucose level is outside a specific target range, which will then prompt them to check their level and treat accordingly. Diabetic Alert Dogs are trained by using donated saliva samples from people with Type 1 Diabetes when they are having a low or high blood glucose event. The dogs are trained to recognise the scent of chemicals released by the body during these events. This training begins from a young age to ensure the scent recognition is strong.

The dogs will be trained to do some other helpful tasks such as retrieving a kit to help treat a low blood glucose event, sitting next to their owner and barking if they fall unconscious and need help when out in public and pressing a button to call emergency services if their owner falls unconscious when they are home alone.

We are training Working Spaniels for this Program because they have an excellent natural scenting ability and work ethic and have proven to be successful in this role. We will also be trialling different breeds for suitability. The training program for Diabetic Alert Dogs must be more intense than the Hearing Dog training program due to the nature of their work. It is very important that the dogs are precise and accurate in detecting changes in blood glucose levels because of the risks associated with the disease.

Both Hearing Dogs and Diabetic Alert Dogs have Public Access Rights and can accompany their owner into shops and on public transport, therefore the dogs must exhibit appropriate behaviour in such places. Hearing Dogs alert their owners to sounds in the home and when out in public, their owner is mostly taking cues from the dog’s body language. However, Diabetic Alert Dogs will be expected to alert their owner to changes in blood glucose levels in any situation and environment.

As the program is still in development, we are not currently accepting applications for a Diabetic Alert Dog. If you are interested in learning more about the Medical Alert Dog program, please contact us.