If Liam’s blood sugar drops too far, it could be fatal for him, as he has diabetes. Thankfully, he also has Mojo – a diabetes alert dog. This four-legged friend does an important job, and as a result, he receives the best possible protection.
Not all guardian angels have wings. Some of them have four paws and a moist nose. Mojo pads along behind Liam, occasionally sniffing around. When it comes to it, though, Mojo’s nose is exactly where it belongs – right beside Liam. Mojo is Liam’s best friend and protector. The golden Labrador is at his side all day, every day, and sleeps next to him at night.
Liam is nine years old and has type 1 diabetes. Initially, his family lived with the fear that Liam could fall into a potentially lethal coma if his blood sugar fell to a dangerously low level – worst of all would be at night, when everyone was asleep and possibly no one would notice. What a terrible thought. Then along came Mojo.
Mojo is a dog with extraordinary capabilities. He is a diabetes alert dog, able to smell when Liam’s blood sugar is too high or too low and raise the alarm so Liam knows to test his level. This makes the Labrador more than just a faithful friend – he’s a lifesaver, too. “With Mojo at his side, Liam can sleep without us having to worry about his blood sugar dropping too much and him falling into a coma,” says his mother Sofia Sundström, from Sweden.
She vividly remembers the day she first noticed something wasn’t right with her son. “The symptoms first became apparent on a Friday evening. Liam woke up and his diaper was soaked through. He was thirsty and drank a big glass of water. A short time later, his diaper was wet and heavy again.”
She was concerned, and after some research on the internet had an idea what might be wrong. She and her husband decided to take their son to the doctor’s. They hoped he would reassure them and tell them everything was fine and there was no danger. Having checked Liam’s blood sugar level, however the doctor immediately sent mother and child to hospital in an ambulance.
Sundström was distraught. “I simply couldn’t grasp the fact that my baby would never be healthy again. I felt powerless.” She spent the next two weeks in the hospital with her 2-year-old son. She found out more about his condition – and how the family’s life would change forever.
As yet, there is no cure for diabetes. In type 1 diabetes, the body’s own immune system has completely destroyed all the cells responsible for producing insulin. Liam will therefore have to inject insulin his whole life. He measures his blood sugar repeatedly – as many as eleven times – every day.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 422 million people worldwide are living with diabetes.
Diabetes is a metabolic condition caused by the pancreas producing too little insulin, or none at all. However, the body needs insulin to absorb the sugar (glucose) present in food from the bloodstream and convert it into energy. To achieve this, though, the carbohydrates in food must first be broken down into small glucose particles in the digestive tract. This is the only way for them to enter the blood. From there, they are transferred into the cells, and this is where insulin plays a key role. If a lack or reduced level of insulin means the cells don’t absorb the glucose, this can lead to a long-term rise in the blood sugar levels, creating diabetes – or diabetes mellitus, to be precise.
There are two different forms of diabetes. In type 1, the organism is not capable of generating its own insulin, meaning it has to be administered from the outside. Type 2 diabetes is much more common, accounting for around 90 percent of cases in the industrialized world. Alongside genetic disposition, the primary causes include lifestyle, lack of exercise, a fatty diet, and obesity.
Mojo gives Liam reassurance, along with a bit more independence and freedom. That’s something special. Not every dog can be trained to warn diabetics of a potentially dangerous situation. The dog either has the capability or it doesn’t. Alert dogs learn to take the initiative and draw attention to the threat. Mojo has been living with his family for years, and completed his training as an assistance dog with support from Bayer in 2018.
“Mojo is a godsend for us,” Sundström says. However, even dogs like Mojo can only do their work properly when they are protected from hazards themselves and are completely healthy. This includes protection from pests. “We use a SerestoTM collar to protect Mojo from fleas and ticks and the illnesses they can transmit. It gives us the reassurance that Mojo is protected for months, no matter where he goes with Liam.”
Only as much of the active ingredients is dispensed to the dog as is needed for effective protection against ticks and fleas.
“The special structure of this state-of-the-art collar, the polymer matrix, contains the active ingredients imidacloprid against fleas and lice and flumethrin against ticks,” explains Dr. Markus Edingloh, head of Global Veterinary Scientific Affairs at Bayer Animal Health. “As soon as the SerestoTM collar is fastened, the active ingredients are released continuously and in small, easily tolerated quantities into the natural fat film of the dog’s skin and hair with the help of skin-compatible, neutral oils.”
From there, the active ingredients spread over the animal’s entire skin surface within 48 hours, effectively killing parasites and even warding off ticks before they can bite and transmit diseases. The dog is also indirectly protected for eight months against certain pathogens carried by ticks.
This is particularly important for families with children. “Only as much of the active ingredients is dispensed to the dog as is needed for effective protection against ticks and fleas, so nothing stands in the way of stroking and cuddling the animal.” Liam enjoys scratching Mojo’s head. His fingers glide through the short, smooth fur. The two of them make a great team, ready to tackle the challenges of living with diabetes and looking forward to a safe, happy life together.