Dog Saves Man's Life: Did Toe-Chewing Terrier Sniff Owner's Diabetes?

Jerry Douthett and his life-saving terrier, Kiko. (WZZM/CNN)

(CBS) Jerry Douthett, the diabetic man whose terrier, Kiko, chewed off his infected toe while he lay in a drunken stupor, told the Grand Rapids Press that Kiko often sniffed his foot.

When Douthett, 48, of Rockford, Mich., sought medical care after waking to find what Kiko had done, physicians at Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids discovered that he had a dangerously high blood-sugar level of 560, according to the newspaper.

His toe was infected to the bone, and surgeons amputated what was left of the digit.

Douthett credits his dog with saving his life.

Douthette said the digit was a bit smelly, and he tried to hide it from everyone, including his wife. But Kiko wasn't fooled.

There may be a reason for that. Researchers have found that dogs may be able to tell when their diabetic owners are in danger of having a severe diabetic episode, such as falling into a coma.

A 2008 survey at Queen's University Belfast in Northern Ireland found that 65 percent of diabetics reported that when they were having a blood sugar emergency their pets had reacted by whining, barking or licking, according to Reuters.

Building on this research, the Cancer and Bio-Detection Dogs Research Center, a charity in Aylesbury, England, started honing the innate skills of rescue dogs over two years ago. The center pairs trained dogs with diabetic owners.

According to the Center, diabetes gives people a distinct body odor. With special training, a dog can alert when its owner's blood sugar drops dangerously low.

In this case, Kiko needed no training.

Good dog!

For more on the story, see this CNN video.