WATCH | Meet Oakley, a medical dog trained to detect changing blood sugar levels in diabetic boy

0:00
play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
  • Type 1 diabetes is a potentially life-threatening condition as the body stops producing insulin, essential for survival.
  • A Cape Town woman, Lucy Breytenbach, is training diabetic alert dogs to detect when a person's sugar levels go dangerously high or low.
  • Diabetics donate swabs of their saliva when their sugar levels are low or high - the saliva emits a scent the dog is trained to pick up. 

Lucy Breytenbach started her non-profit organisation, Honey's Garden, two years ago and trains dogs to help people suffering from various medical conditions, including type 1 diabetes, asthma, severe depression and hearing loss.

One such dog is Oakley, a beagle cross border collie, trained to detect when his owner becomes hypoglycemic (sugar levels go too low) or hyperglycemic (sugar levels go too high).

Oakley is currently in training, but six-year-old Christian Fourie hopes to have him permanently by his side by the end of the year.

His family takes the dog home every weekend, and Oakley is trained to wake up Christian's parents to alert them when his sugar levels aren't stable. 

No other organisation is offering this kind of dog training in South Africa, and Breytenbach learnt the techniques from an American trainer.

"It's so fulfilling, it's the reason we get up when it's pouring with rain. We work the dogs for long hours during the day, we put them through tests, prepare the family, and match the dog according to the family. The dog can't be an extra burden, the dog must help them, not hinder them," she said.

"Saying goodbye to them is heart-breaking, but when we see them again, and see how they are working for the families, it's the best feeling in the world."

Some of the dogs Breytenbach trains are rescues, while others are donated by breeders. 

Do you want to know more about this topic? Sign up for one of News24's 33 newsletters to receive the information you want in your inbox. Special newsletters are available to subscribers.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Lockdown For
DAYS
HRS
MINS
Voting Booth
How has the delay in schools' opening impacted your life?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
It's a disaster! We're struggling to manage work and kids at home
41% - 1632 votes
It's a struggle, but we learnt lessons from last year's closures
19% - 774 votes
It's a relief, this second wave is bad and kids need to be at home
40% - 1587 votes
Vote
ZAR/USD
15.23
(-0.77)
ZAR/GBP
20.84
(-0.63)
ZAR/EUR
18.51
(-0.51)
ZAR/AUD
11.75
(-0.66)
ZAR/JPY
0.15
(-0.77)
Gold
1854.63
(-0.13)
Silver
25.31
(-0.86)
Platinum
1095.00
(-0.36)
Brent Crude
55.02
(0.00)
Palladium
2336.50
(-0.77)
All Share
64559.85
(+0.89)
Top 40
59408.05
(+0.89)
Financial 15
11549.82
(-1.16)
Industrial 25
88868.70
(+2.65)
Resource 10
62256.06
(-0.71)
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes morningstar logo