Pitbull Saves Child from Hypoglycemia

Evidence continues to mount that dogs can sniff out hypoglycemic episodes.



A Minnesota 4-year old who nearly slipped into a hypoglycemic coma is alive today because his mother chose to foster a pitbull shelter dog.

According to ABC News, Minnesota mom Christi Smith noticed her son, Peyton, was lethargic, so she put him to bed. What she didn’t know was that he was on the verge of slipping into a hypoglycemic coma.

Fortunately, the family had just taken in a 10-month old pitbull named TaterTot, who they planned to foster until they could find the dog a permanent home. TaterTot smelled the changes in Petyon’s body chemistry and began to fret over the boy that night by licking him and barking at him. When that failed to wake him up, TaterTot ran back and forth between Smith and the boy’s bed. Smith rushed to the boy and found him in a near-coma. He was rushed to the emergency room, where doctors treated him for hypoglycemia.

Strangely, Peyton so far has tested negatively for Type 1 diabetes and doctors still aren’t sure what caused the bout of hypoglycemia. Non-diabetic hypoglycemia is less common than diabetes-related hypoglycemia, and there are scarce statistics for the number of cases that occur in the U.S. each year. Causes can include illnesses that impair kidney and liver functions, side effects to medications, glandular issues, excessive drug or alcohol use, and irregular diet. The dangers of hypoglycemia are largely the same, whether or not it is caused by diabetes, and Smith believes that TaterTot saved Peyton’s life.

More people in the T1 community are turning to canine service companions to help them manage diabetes. A recent U.K. study provided evidence that use of diabetes service dogs led to fewer bouts of hypoglycemia and better medical outcomes. Several different dog breeds were followed in the study, but pitbulls weren’t among of them.

The boy’s rescue is a piece of good news for a dog breed that has, fairly or unfairly, had an image problem. In some cities, pitbulls make up between 40% to 65% of the dogs taken in by municipal shelters, and some 1 million are euthanized each year, according to recent studies. The dogs have been characterized by some as a problem breed because they are sometimes trained to be aggressive and are often used for illegal dog-fighting, but animal rights advocates have long contended that well-trained pitbulls can make a loyal and loving addition to the family.

This is one of the first instances of a pitbull making the news as a diabetic service dog.

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Craig Idlebrook is a past editor for Insulin Nation, Type 2 Nation, and Información Sobre Diabetes. He is now the community engagement and content manager for T1D Exchange.