Diabetes is a serious long-term condition that affects millions of people worldwide. It requires careful management to maintain blood sugar levels within a healthy range. Two commonly used tools in diabetes management are diabetic alert dogs (DAD) and continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) systems. While both serve the same purpose of helping individuals with diabetes, they have distinct differences in terms of functionality, accuracy, and cost.
Difference Between DADs vs CGM
Diabetic alert dogs are specially trained service animals that provide assistance to people with diabetes. They are trained to detect changes in blood sugar levels and alert their owners or caregivers when levels are too high or too low. DADs use their highly developed sense of smell to detect the scent that the body emits when blood sugar levels are off. When alerted, the dog will perform specific actions, such as nudging or pawing, to get the attention of its owner and indicate that something is wrong.
On the other hand, continuous glucose monitoring systems are electronic devices that continuously monitor blood sugar levels throughout the day and night. CGMs use a small sensor that is inserted under the skin to measure glucose levels in the interstitial fluid. This data is then transmitted to a receiver or smartphone app, providing real-time information about blood sugar trends and patterns. CGMs can also deliver alerts and alarms when blood sugar levels are too high or too low, just like a diabetic alert dog.
Method of Detecting Changes in Blood Sugar Levels
One major difference between a diabetic alert dog and a CGM is their method of detecting changes in blood sugar levels. DADs rely on their sense of smell, which allows them to detect subtle changes in body odor caused by fluctuations in blood sugar. On the other hand, CGMs use a sensor that measures glucose levels in the interstitial fluid using a process called tissue glucose diffusion.
In terms of accuracy, CGMs are generally more reliable and consistent compared to diabetic alert dogs. CGMs provide real-time glucose readings with high precision, eliminating subjective interpretations. However, it is important to note that CGMs measure glucose levels in the interstitial fluid, which may have a slight time lag compared to blood glucose levels. This discrepancy is usually minimal and does not significantly affect the overall accuracy of the device.
Diabetic alert dogs, on the other hand, are known to be highly accurate in detecting changes in blood sugar levels. Their sense of smell is so refined that they can detect odors at extremely low concentrations, making them sensitive and reliable indicators of hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia. DADs are particularly valuable at night, where CGMs might not catch a rapidly dropping blood sugar level during sleep. However, it is important to remember that DADs are living beings who may have off days or be affected by distractions, fatigue, or illness, which can temporarily affect their accuracy.
Another key difference between diabetic alert dogs and CGMs is cost. Diabetic alert dogs require extensive training, which can be time-consuming and expensive. The process involves selecting suitable candidates, providing specialized training, and ensuring the constant upkeep of their skills. This makes the cost of acquiring and maintaining a DAD quite high.
On the other hand, CGMs are electronic devices that generally require a one-time purchase, along with the cost of sensors that need to be replaced regularly. While the initial investment in a CGM may be higher, the ongoing costs are usually more reasonable than the expenses associated with maintaining a diabetic alert dog.
Moreover, CGMs are covered by many health insurance plans, depending on the individual’s coverage. This can significantly reduce the out-of-pocket costs for CGM users. However, checking with the insurance provider to understand the coverage details and eligibility criteria is important.
In conclusion, diabetic alert dogs and CGMs serve the same purpose of helping individuals with diabetes monitor their blood sugar levels. Diabetic alert dogs use their sense of smell to detect changes in body odor, while CGMs use sensors to measure glucose levels in the interstitial fluid. Both methods have their advantages and limitations.
CGMs offer continuous and accurate glucose monitoring, providing real-time information and alerts. They are more objective and do not require ongoing training or maintenance like DADs. However, they come with a higher initial cost and may not be covered by all health insurance plans.
Diabetic alert dogs, on the other hand, offer a unique and reliable way to detect changes in blood sugar levels, especially during sleep or when CGMs might not be able to catch rapidly dropping glucose levels. However, they require substantial investment, ongoing training, and maintenance.
Ultimately, the choice between a diabetic alert dog and a CGM depends on personal preference, lifestyle, financial considerations, and the specific needs of the individual with diabetes. Consulting with healthcare professionals, diabetes educators, and other individuals who have experience with both options can help make an informed decision that best suits the individual’s needs.