If you or someone you know has ever experienced a seizure you fully understand how alarming it can be. A seizure occurs when there is abnormal electrical activity in the brain; sometimes it is so mild it can go completely undetected, however often the symptoms are more severe with muscle spasms (called convulsions) and loss of consciousness. People suffering from seizure disorders such as epilepsy can have seizure attacks that occur frequently making them unable to live the full independent lifestyle others enjoy. Because seizures may come on unexpectedly, simple tasks that we take for granted like driving a vehicle, going grocery shopping or preparing a meal can become extremely challenging.
Service dogs trained in responding to seizures can be the ideal companion, offering many services that promote safety and emotional well being for the individual. 15% of our canine friends have a natural ability to predict the onset of a seizure; these incredible dogs are able to anticipate the episode up to an hour before it occurs. How they are able to pull off this super power is unknown, but the popular belief is that they are able to smell subtle changes in the person’s biochemistry or detect fine motor changes unperceivable by humans. Regardless of how these life changing animals are able to predict seizures, their services can be used to greatly enhance an individual’s life. These dogs are called seizure alert dogs, because not all dogs have the ability to predict a seizure, these pups are truly special indeed. They are able to alert their owner a seizure is coming; they do this by barking, licking and acting reckless. This gives the owner an opportunity to get to a safe place, take medication, call for help and alert a loved one so they can be checked on later. This kind of notification system can enable the individual to be independent and have confidence to take on the challenges of life.
Other seizure dogs are called seizure response dogs. These dogs may or may not be able to predict the seizure, but they are trained to respond and take action when their owner is having an episode. These dogs provide skilled services such as rolling the person into a safe position, blocking the individual from environmental dangers such as stairs, getting help, activating a K9 call button, retrieving a cordless phone or a cell phone, offering postural balance support during the seizure or to help their owner rise when it’s over. These services are so vital that most seizure alert dogs are also trained to be seizure response dogs, typically called seizure dogs.
Having a condition such as epilepsy certainly comes with many challenges. I’ve had first hand experience with it, and I have seen what a difference a seizure dog can make. Laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act have made it possible for epileptics to have their services dogs with them at all times, enabling them to live their life to the fullest.