Authored by Mary Beth Miller via FetchFind
A new type of service dog has emerged in today’s generation: seizure alert dogs. Our four-legged friends have been a lifeline to several people in need over the last decade and, now a whole new group of people can benefit from these service dogs.
A service canine can warn those who suffer from epileptic seizures up to an hour before an oncoming attack, giving them time to call for help or take appropriate precautions.
With such an amazing ability, one question still remains: how do dogs detect seizures?
Pinpointing the reason as to how a exactly a dog can detect an oncoming seizure is still a mystery, although many theories abound.
Some believe their incredible sense of smell allows them to detect the chemical change inside the body before an attack. Others say it's because our companions are so attuned to human behavior, that they can detect minute changes in our demeanor and mannerisms.
No matter what researchers have come to believe, there is no scientific evidence to support either of these theories.
One thing is for certain — a seizure alert dog is born a seizure alert dog. You can teach a dog to rescue or assist, but seizure detection is not a talent that can be taught.
This remarkable gift is not gender-, breed-, or even age-specific. Dogs as young as six months of age have been reported to detect their owner’s oncoming seizures!
These dogs come from all walks of life, too. Even dogs that were once homeless and living on the street, have showed potential to enter the line of service canines.
Are you looking for a seizure-detection service dog?
Finding a seizure detection dog is no simple task. In fact, it's a bit of a trial-and-error exercise at the moment. Dogs that may have this remarkable gift are placed in real life situations with seizure patients, and only those which pick up on epilepsy behavior remain in the program.
A group of 29 dogs may be selected, but only 9 will show seizure detection talent. The dogs who pass the real-life seizure situation course move on to specialty training, where they're trained to assist a seizing patient.
This may involve teaching the dog how to alert the patient of an upcoming seizure through barking, or training the dog to get help.
If a dog is selected to comfort the patient, training may involve teaching the dog how one might need comforting, such as staying close or fetching a shock blanket.
Dogs with the gift of epilepsy detection are divided into two groups: seizure alert dogs and seizure response dogs.
Seizure alert dogs recognize and warn an epilepsy patient of an upcoming or ongoing seizure. Seizure response dogs stand by the patient to assist during and after a seizure.
A seizure alert dog will exhibit anxious barking, pawing or whining to grab the attention of their owner. This gives the person time to call for help, take medication or lay down in a safe place to prevent injury.
Seizure response dogs stay with the patient to provide emotional support and companionship to the person during a seizure. These dogs can be further trained to seek help if a patient is in need, by pressing a button that dials 911.
It is unknown just how many dogs possess this incredible gift, but these dogs have transformed the lives of epilepsy patients everywhere. In America alone, over 2.3 million people suffer from epilepsy. People with recurrent seizures often avoid normal activity for fear they might have a seizure, but that with a trained seizure dog, they can enjoy a more normal life.
Seizure alert dogs and seizure response dogs have given people the courage to live independent lives. Whether a dog is placed with a patient to alert them of an upcoming seizure or to assist them during an attack, these dogs are a lifeline.
We may not know how these dogs are detecting seizures, but what we do know that is that this ability is a remarkable gift to humankind.
For more information on seizure dogs, check out the following sources: