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Considering Applying for a Diabetic Alert Dog?

Q. I take insulin to manage my diabetes. What can a Diabetic Alert Dog do for me?

A. Early Alert Canines trains dogs to alert people with diabetes when they detect low or dropping blood glucose levels. The dogs can recognize these conditions using their superior senses of smell, which can help you avoid dangerously low blood glucose levels. People with diabetes in our program must confirm the dog's alert with a standard glucose meter finger stick test, and then they can take appropriate countermeasures if needed. Timely treatment of low glucose episodes not only enhances your safety but also improves your overall blood glucose control; it can even save your life.

Q. What motivates dogs to give their handlers a low blood sugar alert?

A. Positive reinforcement is the cornerstone of our training. When a finger sticks blood test confirms the dog's alert, the dog earns a food reward, happy praise, and/or a game. Early Alert Canines selects dogs for training that exhibit a high degree of interest in working for humans. For the dogs, recognizing and alerting to low blood sugar is like a game, resulting in earning rewards. The EAC training team works closely with clients to make sure that the rewards are given appropriately for maximum alerting capability. Working with a diabetic alert dog is a lifelong journey—proper reinforcement is key to the long-term success.

Q. Can I take a full access service dog to work?

A. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers to make "reasonable accommodations" to disabled persons for measures that mitigate the disability. A blood sugar alert dog constitutes a reasonable accommodation for most work environments.


A diabetic cook working in a busy commercial kitchen with workers handling and moving hot pans and boiling pots would be a difficult environment in which to justify a service dog as a reasonable accommodation. Every work situation needs a separate consideration and analysis to see if a service dog could safely fit. If you do not think having a service dog is right for your workplace, you might consider placement with a Skilled Companion Early Alert Canine: a diabetic alert dog who works only in your home. Early Alert Canines generally places Skilled Companion dogs with children younger than 12 years old but will consider placement with an adult with insulin-dependent diabetes whose lifestyle isn't right for a full-access service dog.


Diabetic alert dogs have been placed with people with diabetes who work as teachers, technicians, nurses, office personnel, and more. However, not every situation will qualify as a "reasonable accommodation." Early Alert Canines is dedicated to supporting our clients as well as prospective clients and we can help you decide if a service dog is right for you. We can help you navigate your particular work situation.

Q. How accurate are Early Alert Canines?

A. Early Alert Canines are trained to be incredibly accurate but must not be considered machines. These dogs are not perfect and may miss some lows. As such, blood glucose alert dogs should be viewed as an important secondary backup to your usual blood sugar management tools. The dogs work most effectively on rapidly changing blood sugar, and follow-up work with EAC staff is imperative to ensure a successful partnership. Additionally, a high level of attentiveness is required from the person with diabetes to make his or her partnership with their Diabetic Alert Dog successful. Correctly trained, a newly placed diabetic alert dog can begin alerting with a 60% accuracy, however in a partnership over a period of a few months, with correct follow-up and adherence to EAC guidelines, most dogs attain over 90% accuracy.

Q. How can I get an Early Alert Canine? What is required from me?

A. To be considered for an Early Alert Canine, you must have insulin-dependent diabetes and have been using insulin therapy for at least one year. Good candidates diligently manage their diabetes. EAC dogs are not for people who are not attempting to closely control their diabetes. If you need resources to help you improve your diabetes management, please check out our resources page and feel free to contact us. We have some great resources that may be helpful to you. 

 

Costs 

The cost of training a Diabetic Alert Dog and providing ongoing support for the lifetime of the dog is upwards of $50,000 for EAC. Our team works diligently to fundraise and we are committed to providing the life-saving and life-changing support of a Diabetic Alert Dog to our clients at a minimal cost. Therefore, clients contribute only a portion of the expense as follows:

  • Application Processing: $150 - this is non-refundable and is due with the return of a completed long application.

  • Team Training Class and ongoing support: $5000


Schedule of payments:
If a client's long application is approved, a 50% deposit, or $2500, is required within 6 months of application approval
before we can begin looking for a dog that will fit your needs. This deposit will be credited toward Team Training and Ongoing Support once a suitable dog is sourced. If we are not able to find a suitable dog within two years of receipt of the deposit a full refund will be issued.  


Once the staff determines they have a dog that will be a good fit for the individual's needs, the person with diabetes will first attend a one-day Orientation. The remaining $2500 is due on or before Orientation. After Orientation, people with diabetes seeking placement with a skilled companion attend a one-week Team Training course, and people with diabetes seeking full-access service dogs attend a two-week Team Training course.

At any point should the applicant cancel participation in the program any funds paid will be forfeited. 

 

The applicant will be responsible for all costs necessary for accommodations (travel, food, lodging, etc.) to attend Team Training and Orientation. After Team Training, the EAC staff will follow up vigorously with the Diabetic client. Phone interviews, email reports, and record keeping are required for several months post-placement so that we can ensure that the dog is going to be successful in his or her new home. EAC does annual follow-up certifications and requires each graduate to complete these certifications every year.

 

Fundraising Support:

EAC's Development Director individually assists each client by helping them create a fundraising strategy. Some clients choose to pay their portion directly, some choose to fundraise, and some do both. We provide resources that include marketing materials, social media guidelines, online peer-to-peer fundraising webpages, and various other best practices to help each client create a successful strategy. 

 

Trainer Travel Costs:

Every effort to use video conferencing will be made, but if a client requires an in-person visit, they must either travel to the EAC Training Center or a Trainer must travel to them. EAC clients living over 50 miles from the EAC Training Center in Concord, California. will be expected to pay the cost incurred for a trainer traveling to their home to do follow-up training.  These costs include but are not limited to mileage, airfare, accommodations, meals, and trainer’s time.

 

Ongoing fees:

EAC clients are expected to pay for all costs associated with dog ownership from the date of placement onward.  It is important to be prepared to pay an average of $100-$300 per month, and expect that emergencies can cost considerably more. The high cost of emergency veterinary care can be offset with an insurance policy for the dog, a topic that we will cover during Team Training.

 

EAC Clients are expected to pay for any travel-related expenses as a result of mandatory annual recertification, which typically takes place at EAC's training facility or in Southern California.

Q. I've seen these dogs referred as alert dogs for diabetics, diabetes dogs, diabetes service dogs, diabetic alert dogs, diabetic alert service dogs, diabetic dogs, dogs for diabetics, glucose alert dogs, medical alert dogs, medical assistance dogs, service dogs for diabetics, and diabetic companion dogs. What's the proper terminology, and are there any important distinctions?

A. Basically, all of these terms are correct. The two important distinctions are the differences between dogs that work for people with diabetes and dogs that have diabetes.

 

Though dogs can get diabetes, Early Alert Canines does not train dogs known to have serious medical conditions. For more information about dog diabetes and diabetes symptoms in dogs, please visit www.diabetesindogs.net, www.caninediabetes.org, or speak with a veterinarian.

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