Hey guys! I am so pretty new to diabetes–got diagnosed with Type 1 about a year and a half ago. I have a CGM, but my blood sugar is still a bit crazy. I am going away for college, and was wondering if it would be useful to have both a diabetic alert dog and a CGM? Or I having a CGM already would make getting a service dog kind of useless, since they do about the same job? If anyone has experience with either or both or these and could contrast them I would really appreciate it!
I've only had one dog that had that special gift...he was a dachshund. Not sure if there are particular breeds that have it, but maybe hounds with their incredible sense of smell are better at detecting when we go low. I would think the dog could do the low alert part of a CGM, but there are other trending reasons to have one too. And you would have to have the dog with you all the time. If the CGM has been working accurately for you, I would think that would be the best way to go if you can afford the sensors.
Diabetic Alert Dogs (DAD’s) can be great in certain circumstances but they are a lot of work and responsibility. You must continue to work on training and for the most part your dog should be with you all of the time. Is this what you want for your college experience? Most dogs don’t reliably alert at night because like you, your dog needs rest.
More on topic with your question, many people with alert dogs also use CGMS. I follow two blogs about people using DAD’s and I think they both also use a CGM.
I use a CGM and also live with a hypo-alert dog. There is a good deal of overlap in the protection each affords but I think some redundancy can be a good thing. I've experienced instances where one or the other fails to raise a low-alarm but I rarely see both of them fail at the same time.
I live alone and my dog gives me comfort and companionship. This was a dimension of having an alert service dog that surprised me. He's good for my BG control as well as keeping depression at bay.
Taking care of an animal requires time, responsibility and dedication. To me it seems to compete with the lifestyle most of the public perceives as a typical college student's experience. Not having to take care of a dog would free up time to do other things. It's a personal judgment call on your part; no one else can answer that question. I know of a few college students with hypo-alert service dogs and they like the experience. I think their parents take comfort in knowing their adult child has a companion dedicated to their safety. Having a dog is a great social ice-breaker!
The CGM is lower maintenance and can provide useful alerts to you. On the other hand, there is nothing like the warmth and presence of my dog with his head on my lap as I recover from a hypo. That's something a CGM cannot do.
Good luck with your decision!
I do not have a diabetes alert dog, but I do have experience attending university with a service dog (a guide dog), including living on campus. So I may be able to help with general questions about working with a service dog. The dog does require a great deal of care and, as mentioned, the training is an ongoing process that must be kept updated. When out in public or walking around campus there is no anonyminity - I always had people talking to me about my dog or asking questions or trying to pet, feed, or talk to my dog (which is not allowed while a service dog is working). Although it's not supposed to happen, it's also not uncommon to be refused entry into public buildings (this never happened to me on campus, but happened to me at a city library, at a swimming pool, and at several resturants, as well as when using taxi services). I did really like having my dog with me 24/7 and I do miss the feeling of walking with a guide dog, even though I haven't had one for years now. So there are definitely pros and cons to having a service dog. If I ever get another guide dog, I would like to get a dually trained guide and diabetes alert dog.
A guide dog needs a 100% of his bandwidth to do his/her job well. Hypo-alert dogs don't necessarily need to spend all of their attention all of the time. I allow some interaction if I'm not low and the people are polite. I'm selective about this and I don't like when people reach to pet Norm without seeking permission first.
Managing the social aspects and educating the public is not something I had not considered when thinking about a service dog.
Yes, indeed, you do have to keep up with daily training and exercise.
I did allow people to pet Hula if she was in harness but not actively guiding, but I got her to sit first and then said "Okay!" so that she would understand that she could only say hello to people if I gave her permission first. I did the same when feeding her, making her wait as I put the bowl down and giving an "Okay!" release to eat, so that she wouldn't try to eat random food on the ground. Not that this stopped her from trying sometimes... :)
With any service dog, people should ask if it's okay to pet or interact with them before doing so. A lot of service dogs are working when they have their harness or vest on but are just normal dogs once that equipment comes off. My classmates used to laugh when I took the harness off, because she'd go from being the most serious and attentive dog ever to total hyperactive happy-to-see-everyone mode - she was like a whole different dog.
I'm a college student now, and I have found the CGM to be useful. I socialize/go out/party fairly frequently and having a dog would put a damper on my social life. College is wicked spontaneous, and since you have to have the dog with you at all times you can't just pick up and go wherever. As long as you feel lows, you don't need the diabetes dog. When I'm out and around on campus during the day or night, I just keep my pump controller and my CGM in my handbag and that works just fine. I'm looking into getting a dog after I graduate when I'm living alone, but I really wouldn't recommend having a dog during your undergrad years.
I found the cgm very useful you barely have to worry about it unlike having a dog that can cost a lot and cause a lot of problems during college years. i would defiantly suggest a cgm.
Having a service dog does require a certain degree of planning and attention, but I wouldn't say it's a huge hindrance during university. You do have to consider the pros and cons and decide if the extra work of having a dog is worth the benefits the dog brings to you. It helps a lot to talk with people who use diabetes dogs (or other service dogs) to get a sense of what it's like. I talked to other guide dog users for over a year before deciding to take the plunge myself. Like being a new parent, it didn't prepare me entirely, but it did give me a really good idea of what I was getting into. Keep in mind that once you get a service dog it's something you will live with for the next eight or ten or twelve years (for guide dogs it's usually eight working years, but I'm not sure about diabetes dogs). My dog retired early for a vareity of reasons, but generlaly this is a long-term decision. Not like a CGM where you can get it and decide a year down the road that it's not working for you and simply put it in a drawer and stop using it.
Socially, there are two aspects of having a service dog. One is educating the public, answering questions, and dealing with those who refuse access and so on. The flip side is that people often love dogs and therefore you actually do end up interacting in a positive way with a lot of people, making friends you wouldn't otherwise make, and so on. I'm quite introverted and so I found the almost constant interaction draining (I take public transit so there was literally never a time that I was not around the public except my own home), but someone more extroverted than I would probably thrive off it. Also, the dog is usually with you 24/7 but you *can* leave them at home if you are going somewhere where having them there would be really inconvenient or dangerous. If you're gone for more than an hour or two, you do need to find someone who can check in on and relieve the dog. I left my dog home a few times when attending concerts and hockey games, but she came with me everywhere else.