Top Dogs

These four canine companions provide extra support for people with special needs.

A diabetic alert dog notices the subtle chemical changes that occur in its owner's body as her blood sugar begins to drop, then notifies her by barking or licking her—waking her in the middle of the night, if need be—so she can eat a snack and avoid a dangerous hypoglycemic episode. (

Seizure dogs provide protection in a number of ways: They bark to alert others when their owner goes into a seizure, and lie down next to her to prevent injuries from convulsions. They are even able to retrieve a phone for a 911 call. Over time, some dogs develop the ability to detect a seizure before it happens. (

An autism service dog is trained to provide a calming presence for its owner, and may even accompany children to school, helping to minimize their emotional outbursts. The dogs also provide a common ground through which autistic kids can interact with their peers and further their social skills. (

The Mexican hairless, or xoloitzcuintli, is gaining popularity as a therapy dog for people with fibromyalgia and other forms of chronic pain. Since it lacks fur, the dog's body is warm to the touch, and patients experience relief simply by holding the animal or lying next to it. (

Mehmet Oz, MD, is the host of The Dr. Oz Show (weekdays; check local listings).

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