11 dicembre 2012

Quando il cane avverte l'ipoglicemia.

Armstrong (foto D4D) è uno dei cani che compongono la squadra Dogs4Diabetics, dotati della straordinaria capacità di "sentire" l'ipoglicemia.
Uno studio pubblicato nel 1992 su Diabetic Medicine ha rivelato che almeno un terzo degli animali domestici (cani, gatti, conigli, uccelli) mostrano evidenti cambiamenti nel loro comportamento in concomitanza con il calo di glicemia nei loro amici umani.
Uno articolo pubblicato nel 2000 nel British Medical Journal riportava le esperienze di tre pazienti insulino-dipendenti (una con diabete di tipo 1 e due di tipo 2) i cui cani avevano reagito durante l'insorgenza di un'ipoglicemia: correndo, nascondendosi, muovendosi freneticamente e girando intorno alle pazienti.
Una persona che ha beneficiato di questa capacità diagnostica dei cani è lo sceneggiatore di fumetti e videogiochi Devin K. Grayson, la cui vità è cambiata dopo essersi rivolto a Dogs4Diabetics e aver ottenuto Cody, uno splendido Golden Retriever addestrato da Mark Ruefenacht, a sua volta insulino dipendente e fondatore Dogs for Diabetics.
Mark Ruefenacht - intervistato recentemente da Diabetes Health: Dog Sense. An Interview with Mark Ruefenacht, Founder of Dogs for Diabetics - ha spiegato: "Ho sviluppato una serie di protocolli con i miei cani, un centinaio fino a oggi, il più anziano dei quali è Armstrong. Tra le razze che alleniamo, i Labrador retriever e golden retriever hanno oltre 200 millioni di cellule olfattive. I segugi più di 300 milioni. Altre razze ne hanno meno ma mai sotto 125 millioni. Noi uomini abbiamo al massimo 10 milioni di cellule olfattive".
Andrea Mameli www.linguaggiomacchina.it 11 Dicembre 2012

The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine
Volume 14, Number 10, 2008, pp. 1235–1241
DOI: 10.1089/acm.2008.0288
Canine Responses to Hypoglycemia in Patients with Type 1 Diabetes
Deborah L. Wells, Shaun W. Lawson, A. Niroshan Siriwardena
Abstract  
Objective: Anecdotal evidence suggests that domestic dogs may be able to detect hypoglycemia in their human caregivers; scientific investigation of this phenomenon, however, is sorely lacking. This study thus aimed to investigate how pet dogs respond to the hypoglycemic episodes of their owners with type 1 diabetes.  
Methods: Two hundred and twelve dog owners (64.2% female) with medically diagnosed type 1 diabetes participated in the study. All participants owned at least 1 dog. Each person completed a purpose-designed questionnaire developed to collect information on their dogs’ responses (if any) to their hypoglycemic episodes.  
Results: One hundred and thirty-eight (65.1%) respondents indicated that their dog had shown a behavioral reaction to at least one of their hypoglycemic episodes, with 31.9% of animals reacting to 11 or more events. Canine sex, age, breed status, and length of pet ownership were unrelated to hypoglycemia-response likelihood. Thirty-six percent of the sample believed that their dogs reacted most of the times they went “low”; 33.6% indicated that their pets reacted before they themselves were aware they were hypoglycemic. Dogs’ behavioral responses to their owners’ hypoglycemic episodes varied. Most animals behaved in a manner suggestive of attracting their owners’ attention, for example, vocalizing (61.5%), licking them (49.2%), nuzzling them (40.6%), jumping on top of them (30.4%), and/or staring intently at their faces (41.3%). A smaller proportion showed behavioral responses suggestive of fear, including trembling (7.2%), running away from the owner (5.1%), and/or hyperventilating (2.2%).  
Conclusions: The findings suggest that behavioral reactions to hypoglycemic episodes in pet owners with type 1 diabetes commonly occur in untrained dogs. Further research is now needed to elucidate the mechanism(s) that dogs use to perform this feat.
Conclusions
The findings from this study suggest that many dogs can detect hypoglycemia, often without the use of visual cues and before the animals’ caregivers are aware of their own symptoms. Although it was not the goal of this project to explore how dogs detect hypoglycemia, the results hint at an odor cue, although other signals (e.g., changes in owner behavior due to impaired cognitive functioning) cannot be dismissed. Research is required to elucidate what mechanism/s might underlie the ability of dogs to detect hypoglycemia and to determine whether animals can be trained to consistently alert their owners to the onset of hypoglycemia.

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