Labrador Coco trained to spot when owner is slipping into coma - exclusive
Coco the labrador is much more than just Karen Ruddlesden's best friend...
The one-year-old dog is also her lifesaver - stopping her from falling into a coma at least twice a week.
Coco is the first dog in the world to detect a potentially fatal attack caused by Addison's disease.
The rare disorder means Karen's body does not produce enough steroid hormones.
If her levels of cortisol drop too low she suffers an attack which causes sudden pain in her legs, convulsions, fever and can put her in a coma.
Karen, 40, said: "Coco's got my life in his paws. I can't tell you how much he's changed my life.
"I had been terrified of leaving the house. I became a hermit and my family were really worried. I even contemplated suicide because the attacks could come at any time and I couldn't see the point of living.
"But since having Coco I'm not scared of going out. I've got more confidence and we've even been abroad on holiday."
Coco has been trained to "sniff out" when Karen's cortisol levels drop too low. He smells her breath and alerts her about an imminent attack by licking her hands.
If she is asleep, he touches her with his paws. Coco also carries Karen's steroid injection kit in his vest and is trained to retrieve it on cue.
This gives her much more time to inject herself and seek medical help to prevent a full-blown crisis.
It takes only minutes from starting to feel unwell to being in an Addison's crisis which doesn't always leave her enough time to inject the steroids.
Karen, who lives near Poole in Dorset, had to give up work as a chef in 2004 after being diagnosed with the disorder.
In the past year she has been in intensive care three times. Once her family were told she may not survive. Karen, who got Coco in July, said: "He has given me my life back."
Chocolatecoloured Coco is the latest dog to be trained by pioneering charity Cancer and Bio-detection Dogs in Aylesbury, Bucks.
Chief executive Claire Guest said: "A dog's sense of smell is a 100,000 times more powerful than a human's. We believe they could be trained to help sufferers from a huge range of conditions."
Labrador Coco trained to spot when owner is slipping into coma - exclusive - mirror.co.uk