About two times a night, Shana Eppler wakes up to an alarm and slips into her daughter Abbie's room to test the 8-year-old's blood sugar.
Diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 4, Abbie experiences low blood-sugar levels, a potentially dangerous condition known as hypoglycemia that can cause the loss of consciousness.
The alarm Ms. Eppler uses to avoid a health emergency is a furry one named Gracie, an 70-pound, 3-year-old British Labrador retriever trained to sniff out high and low blood-sugar levels.
When Abbie's sugar level rises or falls below a certain target at night, Gracie rings a bell and Ms. Eppler gets up. "The scenting part comes naturally," says Ms. Eppler, of Colorado Springs, Colo.
"They are hunting blood sugars instead of ducks." Diabetic, or hypoglycemic, "alert dogs" are a growing class of service dogs best known for guiding the visually impaired, sniffing out drugs and bombs, or providing mobility assistance for people with severe disabilities.
Most recently, they have been trained to sniff out cancer and oncoming seizures. Toni Eames, president of International Association of Assistance Dog Partners, estimates there are over 30,000 assistance dogs working in the U.S., including dogs that have been trained by individuals. MORE>>