Most people who have or have had a pet dog would attest to the fact that their canine companion is their best friend, but for a growing number of people who have physical, mental or neurological conditions, a dog is an integral part of their daily lives. Guide dogs, also called assistance dogs, lead the visually impaired; hearing dogs alert those who are hard of hearing of crying babies or the doorbell ringing; diabetic alert dogs warn of chemical changes in blood sugar before it becomes dangerous, by using their sense of smell, while autism support dogs reduce one’s isolation and provide comfort at stressful times.
If you are someone with epilepsy or you know someone with the condition, you’d understand the fears and stress that come with the disorder. For many, it is comforting to have a seizure alert dog around as they can provide relief and come to one’s aid.
What is a seizure alert dog?
A seizure alert dog, sometimes called a seizure dog, is a trained dog that assists people who have epilepsy. It is important to know that when it comes to epilepsy, alert dogs are a subject of disagreement. On one hand, there is no evidence to suggest that dogs can reliably predict seizures, while on the other hand, patients, families and trainers attest to the fact that dogs accurately predict and alert to oncoming seizures. In other words, they may be useful in assisting a person during or after a seizure, but they not guaranteed to alert a person of an oncoming seizure.
What do seizure dogs do?
A seizure assistance dog can be trained to perform or assist with the below behaviour:
· Moving harmful objects out of the way so as to avoid any injury during a seizure.
· Staying with an epileptic person during an ongoing seizure to provide comfort and support.
· Activate devices that would alert a designated person when a seizure is occurring – such as bringing the telephone or running to alert either someone in the house, a neighbour, etc.
· Act as a brace, where they place themselves between a person and the ground especially at the beginning of a seizure attack so that the person doesn’t hit the ground and injure himself.
· Fetch medications
A seizure dog can enhance quality of life especially at difficult times; they can help you increase your independence in such a way you wouldn’t need to depend on family or care givers for something as simple as going to the park or to the store. By and large, epilepsy alert dogs and other assistance dogs are allowed to enter buildings where other pet dogs aren’t. Above all, they can serve as good companions and can help you get through tough days.
But one cannot be guaranteed that a dog can be trained successful to perform all such tasks because of various other factors that would influence it; although a seizure dog can prove to be very helpful especially in times of desperate need.
How can someone get a seizure alert dog?
It entirely depends on what an individual wants. There is no formal way to getting a seizure alert dog. A dog trainer can recommend the type of dog that would be suitable and accordingly you can discuss what you would like your dog to be trained for. Keep in mind that this would be a time-consuming and expensive.
Before committing to getting a seizure dog, It is also important to remember that adopting a dog comes along with the responsibility of caring well for it. A seizure alert dog is a working animal therefore you have to be prepared to commit to the dog’s role as well as its needs- that would include feeding it, taking the dog for walks, taking it to the veterinary when needed and more. Overall you should be consistent in the dog’s training and management plan for best results.
Want to read more epilepsy-related blog posts? Head over to our last post on Child Safety at home and school during Covid-19.