YORK) — A 3-year-old girl in Texas who suffers from a rare form of infant diabetes wouldn’t be alive today if she didn’t have a diabetic alert dog, her mother says.
The little girl, Faith Wilson, has a severe condition that must be constantly monitored.
“It’s a very difficult disease to manage and basically it’s organ failure and you have to live your life on life support,” said Sarah Wilson, Faith’s mother, according to ABC News affiliate KLTV. “Night times were the worst. I used to have panic attacks every night and wake up and run to her bed, holding my breath, just hoping she was alive.”
Sarah Wilson purchased a diabetic alert dog named Ruby two years ago from the Wildrose Kennel in Mississippi for $10,000 through church donations and community support.
Rachel Thornton, Wildrose’s service programs director, said each diabetic alert dog is specifically trained to detect, by scent, if their owner’s blood sugar falls below 100.
“We breed all of our dogs and they are trained at Wildrose Kennel. We breed British labs. It’s a very researched, very scientific breeding to produce the type of dog we’re looking for. We breed for scent ability and temperament, and it yields a dog that has done very good as a diabetic alert dog,” Thornton said.
A diabetic’s metabolism changes before a seizure induced by low blood sugar. This change smells subtly like ketosis, which is like nail polish remover. Dogs have extraordinary sensory abilities, and are able to smell more accurately than humans. The diabetic alert dogs are trained to act when the odor occurs, barking in alarm or licking its owner.
Sarah Wilson said that Ruby has saved Faith’s life several times in the last two years.
“She has absolutely saved Faith’s life more times than I can even count,” Wilson said.
Wilson said Ruby has drastically improved the family’s quality of life.
“I can’t imagine our life without Ruby. I know if it weren’t for Ruby, I would have already buried my child. So I don’t even want to think about life without Ruby,” Wilson said.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Susan Scutti, CNN
Sam Penrod, KSL.com
Kevin Conlon, Euan McKirdy and Johanzynn Gatewood, CNN