Dr Claire Guest Medical Detection Dogs, hypo detection


Dr Claire Guest founded the Medical

Detection Dog charity nearly a decade

ago, and has a lot of experience with

dogs. People unfamiliar with dogs may

wonder about the extent of all these

claims. They would need to look at her

CV, while proof of dogs' abilities in this

arena of detection is growing and being

validated every year.

Guest says, "Many dog owners may

have anecdotes saying that their dog was

alerting them to something including, if

they are diabetic, the fact that they are

having (or are about to have) a hypo. Both

odour and behaviour could be indicators

of their owners having a hypo, but we

focus on odour in training. We collect

breath and sweat samples of scent from

a person with diabetes experiencing a

blood glucose level of 4.5mmol or below.

If a person has no awareness, they may

not be able to do samples in time, so if

they have a partner we might ask them to

help to gather them.

"Initially, we train all dogs to be

aware of the blood sugar level of around

4.5mmols and below, but later training

specifically matches the dog to their

owners own hypo status. It means that

the dog can tell the difference between

their owner or handler just being stressed,

as opposed to having a hypo, or their

owner's hypo as opposed to the hypo of

someone else who might be in the room.

We collect samples by using pieces of

materials placed in plastic bags that the

person has to breathe on. We are always

keen to have more people helping us

out with this. If they start to have a hypo

they just breathe on a swatch of material

as provided to them then place it in the

freezer to send to us at a later date.

"With the dogs we start with general

training then go on to specific client

training where the dog is only rewarded

for responding to its owner's hypos.

The training process involves a specific

smell being a cue for them to do something

to alert their owner that something is

happening that they need to address."

At the moment the Medical Detection

Dogs charity has 55 live partnerships and

roughly 40 dogs in training, about 75% of

which are likely to be placed with diabetics.

Guest says, "We have many cross-breeds

as they tend to show something called

hybrid vigour. The choice as to whether

they become assistance dogs is down to

temperament; they need to enjoy their work."

Costs of dog training are quite

considerable, but then they have a huge

responsibility, literally being relied on

to save lives in some cases. However,

as everyone is aware, diabetes is an

increasing cost to the NHS: a single

incident where a diabetic has to be taken

into A&E due to a hypo or a hyper can

cost, per admission, in the region of

£1,200. When it comes to quality of life for

some people with diabetes, a hypo dog is

worth every penny.

Looking to the future, Guest says,

"The business is growing and has its own

challenges. I started it in order to help as

many people as possible. It's what keeps

us all going. We've done work on quality

of life showing that people fear hypos

and that by having a medical detection

dog they show a statistically significant

improvement and have fewer hypos. They

also tend to show an overall drop in their

HbA1c levels, although that is not proven

as being statistically significant yet, but

we're working on it!"

To read more about a dog's sense of

smell, click HERE.

To read more about which odours

indicate disease, click HERE.

continued over

BEST IN SHOW GUEST APPEARANCE: Dr Claire Guest at work at the charity

she founded, Medical Detection Dogs, in Milton Keynes.


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