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Diabetes Detection Dogs: Does Breed Matter?

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Requirements of detection dogs: fervent, keen, driven. Certain canine breeds have these natural instincts. And if there’s one thing experts will tell you about training detection dogs, it’s that these traits cannot be compromised.

Wayne Mowry And His Diabetic Detection Dog (And Best Friend) Bretagne.
Wayne Mowry and his diabetic detection dog (and best friend) Bretagne.

Written by Dr. Cindy Otto, DVM, PhD

At the Penn Vet Working Dog Center (WDC), we are dedicated to harnessing the unique strengths of our canine partners and producing an elite group of scent-detection dogs for public safety and health. Our dogs are trained to prevent crime and acts of terrorism, working alongside military, police, TSA, and the Department of Defense to find explosives and narcotics; rescue victims of accidents or disasters, using expert search and recovery skills; detect ovarian cancer; and alert people with diabetes when their blood sugar is out of normal range.

We recently graduated our first diabetes detection dog, a purebred golden retriever named Bretagne. This super sniffer can alert her owner, Wayne Mowry of Bloomingdale, NJ, when his blood sugar levels are too high or low.

So does Bretagne’s breed matter? It’s a common question, and the answer is honestly, “Yes.”

Dogs are capable of intelligent work that can save lives; Bretagne is just one example. Experts often work with purebred dogs to ensure these canine graduates are dependable and can deliver on their training. It would be impossible to create a training program with dogs who are unpredictable in their abilities, temperament, or natural breed-specific capabilities without compromising people’s lives.

Time and again, the Penn Vet WDC relies on purebred, American Kennel Club-registered puppies because, with time and training, their instincts provide stability in situations where, potentially, everything around them is crumbling. I witnessed one of those scenarios firsthand when I studied the health and behavior of our canine heroes at Ground Zero in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. These dogs aided in searching the debris for victims, and that meant the difference between saving a life or recovering a loved one, and never knowing how they passed.

I’ve also heard countless testimonials like the one Wayne recently shared with me. He said, “It’s hard to express what it feels like to no longer be in a constant state of worry. Bretagne is my new constant companion, and she is unfailingly by my side, making sure I get the care I need. That means a lot to me.”

In canine detection work, breed matters. Proven breeds can perform time after time, and that is vital when you are relying on the professional dog to find deadly explosives, lethal illegal drugs, trapped victims, or life-threatening health conditions.

If you want peace of mind through dependability and consistency, then science and practical experience show purebreds are ideal for canine detection services.

– Dr. Cindy Otto

Dr. Cindy Otto, DVM, PhD, is the Founder and Executive Director of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center (WDC). She first began monitoring the health and behavior of Urban Search and Rescue canines when she was deployed with Pennsylvania Task Force One to Ground Zero following the 9/11 attacks. Upon returning from Ground Zero, Dr. Otto, with a grant provided by the AKC Canine Health Foundation, initiated the only longitudinal study to follow the effects of the deployment to the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and Staten Island Landfill on the Search and Rescue dogs’ immediate and long-term health and behavior. The WDC opened on September 11, 2012. Dogs in the program are named in honor of individuals who lost their lives on 9/11 and canine heroes who served following the attacks.

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  1. Avatar Of Becky



    Hm, Dogington Post, I take it you recycle your stories? Or are these people who commented in 2014 on an article "just" posted 8/17/17 time travelers? I was about to respond to the person who wanted to get a diabetic detection dog when I noticed the date of her comment. I hope she got one by now. But for anyone else wanting a service dog, I suggest googling "service dog trainer" or "diabetic alert dog" or whatever you need to find an organization near you. You could also ask organizations to do with your disability if they know how to get a service dog for that disability; possibly your social worker might know too.

  2. Avatar Of Becky



    Um, you may be a veterinarian & I'm not, but you're funded by the AKC & I'm not. Since I'm aware of multiple organizations & programs training dogs rescued from shelters to be service dogs, as well as drug dogs, search & rescue dogs, etc., the more I read the more suspicious I became, so I read the bio info after your name. ALWAYS CHECK TO SEE WHO'S PAYING THE PERSON TELLING YOU SOMETHING, FOLKS!

  3. Avatar Of Helen Adcock Helen Adcock says:

    The dog who plays the most are diabetic free dogs.
    Breed can be of any dog
    But most important is how much is the dog active and energetic.
    Some energetic breed i am aware of is Pomsky and Bull dog.

  4. Avatar Of Terri Terri says:

    oh my…I cannot tell you how much I need one of those diabetic dogs. I am insulin dependent and it can really mess with me. I have to drive to work and sometimes it scares me, driving. My sugars are usually. High. How do we find out getting a dog? I truly need one to help me. My husband is also diabetic, but controlled by pills. I am on novolog and Lantis. I really could use a diabetic dog. I work for a Maximum Security Unit and it is critical that I always have my wits about me. Please tell me how do get one of these dogs. I am a dog lover and have two miniature schnauzers now, but they are both elderly, one is 13 and the other one is 12. Please provide some feedback

  5. Avatar Of Joe Caruso

    Joe Caruso


    My golden retriever, Willy did this for me…with no formal training!

  6. Avatar Of Lori W Lori W says:

    I had a beagle that actually alerted my mother on two occasions of her extremely low blood sugars. One incident occurred during the night while my mother was sleeping. She kept pawing at my mother until she woke up. It is good she did that, my mother was drenched in a wet sweat. The dog was not trained to do this either.

  7. Avatar Of Margot Thrun

    margot thrun


    Out rescue lab mix has waken my daughter several times when her blood sugar was too low

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