JJ the service dog acts as a medical monitor

Another curious example of a dog who can spot an oncoming condition before everyone else.

Service Dog Sniffs Out Girl’s Disease, Even in Operating Room – ABC News.

Since she was two months old, Kaelyn “KK” Krawczyk has had a severe form of mastocytosis, which can cause a life-threatening allergic reaction to simple, everyday things – heat, exercise, even exposure to medicines.

But for KK, a 7-year-old from Apex, N.C., these allergic reactions can be fatal and can escalate quickly to anaphylaxis or fatal shock.

KK needs to be monitored all night long so her parents worry that anything, even hot blankets, might lead to a reaction that causes a fall down the stairs, unconsciousness or worse.

But for the last 18 months, they have a much better medical watchdog: a terrier named JJ who can smell the cell changes before she has a serious reaction and warn her parents that she needs her medical kit.

KK has recurring kidney infections and trips to the hospital. Doctors have discovered that the dye used in surgical procedures and the chemicals in anesthesia can trigger dangerous allergic responses.

So just this week, doctors allowed JJ and her trainer to accompany KK into the operating room at Duke University Medical Center, where she was to have exploratory kidney surgery. The dog was there to alert the anesthesiologist in advance of a reaction so they could ward it off with medication before it becomes life-threatening.

“It was kind of logical, actually,” her anesthesiologist, Dr. Brad Taicher told the News-Observer, which first reported the story.

“Knowing what JJ could do, we realized that JJ was not much different from other monitors we use.”

What an unusual story. They let dogs in an operating room? It is assumed she underwent QUITE an extensive bath.

JJ, a terrier, has been trained as a diabetic alert dog and learned to pick up the scent of KK’s cell changes. She then warns people by barking and tugging on clothes. She also will fetch the medical kit. They say the dog can warn them up to four minutes before an attack.

There is no information on how often the dog fails to alert or exactly how the training has occurred. So I’m left with lots of questions. I looked it up. There is a known mechanism.

When a diabetic person has a hyperglycemic event their body produces ketones. These water soluble compounds are acetone, acetoacetic acid, and beta-hydroxybutyric acid. During hyperglycemia, a body has no insulin or not enough insulin and fat is used instead as a fuel for vital body functions. When a diabetic person has a hypoglycemic event their body enters a catabolic state in which amino acids are used for energy. The body does this by removing the nitrogen atom off a molecule. The skeleton molecule left behind is then converted into glucose and used as fuel. In order to get rid of the excess nitrogen left behind the body processes the nitrogen through the kidneys, and forms urea. Urea is excreted in urine, sweat, saliva and released as pulmonary vapor. These scents are given off by the body during hypo/hyper glycemic events. While imperceptible to the human nose, the dog’s olfactory sensory perceptions can easily discriminate these vapors from their environment. We train our dogs to give an active alert when the scents are present.

They do note that the dog is not a replacement for blood sugar testing but an aide. I’m still not clear if we are talking about the same mechanisms with KK since she is not diabetic but there appears to be changes to the body prior to a reaction that the dog is picking up.

  3 comments for “JJ the service dog acts as a medical monitor

  1. WMcCreery
    December 20, 2013 at 6:27 PM

    There is also a psychological effect for the child as well

  2. December 20, 2013 at 7:03 PM

    Acetone is very noticeable on the breath of a diabetic having ketoacidosis – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ketoacidosis

  3. Leah Larkin
    December 20, 2013 at 8:25 PM

    JJ (the dog) had already trained as a diabetic alert dog and was taught to alert to KK’s (the girl’s) reactions using mouth swabs and clothing. When JJ’s mastocystosis training began, no one knew whether it would work, and to my knowledge, the doctors still don’t know what she is smelling. However, she has proven that she can tell a few minutes before their best medical equipment that KK is in trouble and needs help. Also, the medical procedure in this story was not an open-body-cavity surgery, so the risk of infection was relatively low. JJ had a bath the night before and was in a corner of the room, not in physical contact with KK, while the doctors worked. You can find more information on JJ and KK here: http://eenp.org/main/KKandJJ.

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