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Does insurance cover diabetic alert dogs?

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Insurance coverageAbout DADsTraining and costHow to get a DADOther costsAre they service animals?TravelingOther diabetes alertsSummary
A diabetic alert dog (DAD) can warn you about dropping glucose levels, retrieve medical supplies, and give you physical support. But private insurers, Medicare, and Medicaid do not cover the costs of service animals.
Medically reviewed by Vincent J. Tavella DVM, MPH
Written by Gina Vaughan
Updated on

If you have diabetes, you may sometimes experience low blood sugar, also known as hypoglycemia. You may experience this more often if you have type 1 diabetes.

When this happens, you may notice early symptoms like sweating, shaking, dizziness, or confusion. Early symptoms can help let you know your blood sugar levels are dropping.

If hypoglycemia is not treated quickly, it can lead to seizures, blackouts, or even coma. That’s where DADs can help.

Does insurance cover diabetic alert dogs?

Adult sitting in living room chair with son next to him on a sofa and a service dog laying on the floor in the foreground after the family wondered does insurance cover diabetic alert dog
Photography by Fotostorm/Getty Images

More than 10% of people worldwide (over half a billion people) have diabetes. Hypoglycemia alerts can become an important part of managing the condition, and you may wonder whether your insurance will cover the cost.

Medicare, Medicaid, and private medical insurance do not typically cover the cost of diabetic alert dogs. Yet you may find nonprofits that provide dogs for free or at a reduced cost, as well as other organizations that require payment for the dogs’ training only.

If you receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), you may be eligible for financial assistance to help with the cost of a service animal.   

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About diabetic alert dogs

Usually, around 5 years after diganosis, you may no longer feel early diabetes symptoms. This is called hypoglycemia unawareness. Service dogs can help you detect those early symptoms and manage your diabetes in the best way possible.

What do they do, and how are they trained?

Service dogs are specially trained by dog training agencies all over the world. They go through vigorous obedience training and are socialized in a wide range of settings.

DADs are trained specifically to alert their owners of low blood sugar. Experts believe that when your blood sugar drops, service dogs can detect a subtle change in chemical odor.

They are trained to perform certain gestures or actions when this happens. The Diabetes Council lists a few of these as:  

  • jumping on the owner’s lap
  • touching the owner with their nose
  • pawing the owner’s lap
  • holding a specific toy in their mouth as a signal
  • alerting other family members that help is needed
  • bringing objects, such as medications
  • retrieving the phone for the owner to use
  • dialing 911 on a special device for help

Diabetic alert dog training and cost

There are both nonprofit and for-profit organizations that train support animals. The organization funding them can vary, as can their price and whether you will need to put your name on a waitlist.

Nonprofit organizations usually have service dogs at low or no cost, or they may charge for only the application fee and training. This service is generally volunteer-run and financially supported by grants, fundraisers, and other programs. The downside of getting a dog through a nonprofit is that the wait times can be anywhere from 2 months to 5 years.

For-profit agencies offer a much shorter waiting period, but the cost is significantly higher. The waiting period can range from 2–6 months, but prices can range from $8,000–$25,000.

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How do you get a diabetic alert dog?

To start the process of getting a service dog, you should reach out to reputable organizations that train DADs. They will be able to answer most of the questions you have and determine whether an alert dog would be beneficial for you.

Exact requirements may vary from one organization to another, but general requirements include that you:

  • have a diabetes diagnosis
  • have frequent episodes of low blood sugar with no warning (hypoglycemia unawareness)
  • rely on insulin for blood sugar management
  • are at least 12 years old (required by some agencies)
  • experience frequent hypoglycemia
  • experience frequent hypoglycemia at night
  • have another disability in addition to hypoglycemia unawareness

Other associated costs of a diabetic alert dog

Aside from the purchase or training of your dog, there are other costs you may want to consider. These consist of general expenses associated with dog ownership, like health maintenance, food, grooming, license, vaccination fees, and veterinary bills if your alert dog becomes ill or has an accident.

Pet insurance is available to cover your dog’s medical needs if you choose, and pet life insurance policies may help protect you if your dog dies.

Learn more about how Optum Perks can help with pet medication.

Do diabetic alert dogs count as service animals?

DADs fall in the category of service animals, so they are protected under the American Disabilities Act (ADA).

Service animals are allowed to accompany their owners in all public places, provided they are well behaved and well managed. There are no breed restrictions for service animals.

Traveling with a diabetic alert dog

A DAD is able to travel on public transportation with their owner, including air travel. Under the Air Carrier Access Act, service dogs fly for free with their handlers.

They are also permitted to stay in hotels, motels, and resorts and may stay in standard rooms versus pet-friendly rooms without extra deposits or cleaning charges.

Other options for diabetes alerts

Most technology-based diabetes alerts are designed for people who require insulin. Insulin helps regulate your blood sugar, and when it becomes too low, it can be dangerous.

Continuous glucose monitors (CGMs)

CGMs monitor glucose levels throughout the day with a sensor that you insert just beneath your skin. These devices have become smaller throughout the years, so now they are barely noticeable.

Most glucose monitors work with a smartphone app and can alert you when your blood sugar gets too low. These are also available for children, and parents or caregivers can receive an alert when their child’s levels are outside of the optimal range.

Smart insulin pumps

Smart insulin pumps work in the same way as a regular insulin pump — by injecting a small dose of insulin during the day, as needed.

These pumps record all data so you and your healthcare professional can make informed decisions about your diabetes treatment. The pumps will continually monitor your blood glucose and alert you if your numbers fall outside the expected range.


Getting a diabetic alert dog can be a lengthy process, but anecdotal evidence suggests it is worth the wait.

Service dogs can offer you a sense of relief. You’ll know that if your blood sugar levels drop unexpectedly, your dog will alert you.

When you don’t have to continually focus on managing your diabetes, it lets you focus more on your day-to-day activities.

Generally, service animals benefit many people in many different ways, and now people with diabetes can also experience these benefits.

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