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How Seizure Alert Dogs Help Save Lives

May 29th, 2018
How Seizure Alert Dogs Help Save Lives

A Dog Can Save Your Life in Many Ways

Service dogs have proven to be indispensable partners, particularly for persons who experience seizures. Not only do these pooches help persons living with disabilities to be independent but they also give them freedom from fear, a peace of mind, and round-the-clock support. With the enactment of the American with Disabilities Act, physically impaired individuals have the right to take their service dogs with them even when they’re going to public places.

Seizure alert dogs are a perfect example of service pets. But, keep in mind that this service pooch is different from the seizure response dog. However, both kinds of dogs are very beneficial to persons diagnosed with epilepsy. On a global scale, about 65 million people are living with epilepsy, 3.4 million of whom reside in the United States. Your best bet at surviving the seizures caused by this condition is getting yourself a seizure alert dog.

The Difference between Seizure Response and Seizure Alert Dogs

Their names give away their definitions. More specifically, a seizure alert pooch warns you of impending seizures while the response dog is trained to provide a certain form of support once a seizure occurs.

At least 15% of dogs have a natural ability to detect oncoming seizures. They can sense seizures a couple of minutes or several hours before. Getting a heads up regarding an oncoming seizure can go a long way to save your life. So what exactly does a seizure alert pooch do?

  • Exhibit alert or warning behaviors before a seizure happens
  • Stay in close proximity to their owner during seizures so as to prevent severe injuries.
  • Alert colleagues, family members or friends of what you’re going through
  • Some can even fetch a cellphone, alert gadgets or medication for you
  • Opening doorways and switching on the lights

A seizure response dog, on the other hand, helps by providing all the crucial help you might need once a seizure happens. It means that they might not be able to detect looming seizure attacks. However, they will go far and beyond to keep you safe or get you help when the seizures do happen.

Seizure Alert Dog’s Warning Behaviors

If you’re about to experience a seizure, you will notice your dog displaying unusual behavior. Some likely warning signs include:

  • Maintaining constant eye contact
  • Pawing
  • Pacing to and fro
  • Licking
  • Acting edgily

How Seizure Alert Dogs Work

Presently, seizure alert dogs are highly recommended, with a majority of medical experts agreeing to their use. There are several reasons why medical personnel have faith in these dogs’ capabilities. For one, dogs tend to be sensitive to subtle cues, both physical and biological, which would otherwise go unnoticed by humans.

One popular school of thought is the fact that dogs have a very strong sense of smell. This comes into play when detecting seizures. Another school of thought has it that dogs have higher sensitivity to body language than humans do. It enables dogs to pick up on very tiny cues whether in an individual’s behavior or movement patterns.

The only thing that medical professionals disagree about is that some dog breeds can be trained to detect seizures long before they occur. These experts are hell-bent on the basic principle that habits are natural; hence, they cannot be learned.

But there are a couple of organizations that have embraced the activity of training dogs to detect seizures. One such organization is the Canine Assistants, which trains pooches to summon for help when their owners experience seizures. Although they don’t train seizure alert dogs, the company asserts that most dogs develop this capability a short while after being placed with persons living with epilepsy.

Another thing you need to be wary about is that these dogs may not be able to provide an alert 100% of the time. A seizure alert or response dog will make an excellent companion but you shouldn’t rely on them alone.

Training

It takes a significant amount of time and money to find a dog breed with this particular capability or gift. The process of finding effective seizure service dogs is pretty labor-intensive. For one, the trainers have to assess these dogs over a pre-determined period, so as to certify their capability. Ideally, the most suitable dog for this role ought to have a warm temperament like the Labrador retriever.

Also, he requires a lot more training than learning basic obedience skills. There are several things that a seizure service dog learns. Even if he can’t detect the seizure, he can bring you your phone, notify your closest neighbor, trigger the alarm system or bring medical equipment.

Eligibility

Considering the hard work involved in training and ‘creating’ seizure service dogs, these pooches are not freely handed out to any individual. For one, you’ll need to be diagnosed with a physician-documented disability. You should also keep in mind that laws governing service dogs vary from one state to another. Consequently, you should go over the rules applying to your state before getting a seizure alert dog.

Cute Puppy for check up

Alternatively, you can purchase this pooch from a private trainer. Although this might be a pricey affair, a seizure alert dog is worth every penny. But be sure to purchase from certified organizations like Canine Assistants. Also, be wary of people claiming that they can train your pooch to detect seizures. The truth is, some dog breeds are better suited for this role than others. The most common breeds used for seizure alerts are the German shepherd and the golden retriever.

The Bottom Line

Based on numerous studies, persons diagnosed with epilepsy have been found to do better when they are in the company of service dogs. One of the best companions for such people is a seizure alert dog. Although not all dog breeds have this natural capability to detect your seizure hours before, most of them can be trained for this role. However, you should keep in mind that even well-trained dogs can fail to perform their roles at times. As such, a seizure alert dog should only be an additional form of security. You need not rely on him solely to notify you of the impending danger.