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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 November 2007, 13:08 GMT
Dogs to sniff out owner diabetes
Dr Deborah Wells said the study has enormous potential

Researchers at a Belfast university are to investigate if dogs can sniff out diabetes.

Dr Deborah Wells, from the School of Psychology at Queen's, said there were anecdotal stories of dogs detecting a drop in blood sugar in their owners.

She and Dr Shaun Lawson, from the University of Lincoln, have been awarded 10,000 funding from Diabetes UK for a year-long study.

They want 100 Type One diabetics to complete an online survey.

The researchers are also seeking video footage of dogs reacting to their owner's 'hypos' or low blood sugar levels.

"Anecdotal reports suggest that some dogs can perform early warning of hypoglycaemia by using their sense of smell to sniff out if their owner's blood sugar levels are dropping," Dr Wells said.

"At present there are a couple of people in the UK trying to train dogs for hypoglycaemia detection, but scientific study of this phenomenon is sorely lacking and in much need of investigation."

She said the study has the potential to be of enormous benefit and could be used to help develop an "electronic nose" to detect either decreases or increases in blood sugar levels.

"The video footage will be analysed to see if dogs exhibit any changes in behaviour or show alertness," she said.

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