Seizure Alert Dogs Helping People with Epilepsy
by Wayne Tuttle
One of the newest categories of Service Dogs is called a seizure alert dog. These specially trained Service Dogs are becoming more and more popular around the world. The purpose of a seizure alert dog is primarily to help people with epilepsy. They do this either by protecting them, helping them to avoid injury from wandering, or even by going to get help.
It is estimated that 0.6% of the Canadian population has epilepsy while 2.3 million Americans suffer from epileptic seizures. Each seizure can last from a few seconds to a few minutes, and in some cases the person is rendered unconscious. Some people with epilepsy avoid normal activities because they fear what may happen if they have a seizure in public. Contrary to popular belief, seizure alert dogs cannot be trained to detect oncoming seizures. This is why some trainers refer to these dogs as seizure assist dogs rather than seizure alert dogs. While it is true, some dogs seem to be able to sense their owner's seizures before the onset, it is rare. The reasoning behind this early detection is yet to be determined. Therefore, a seizure alert dog may be useful for a person with epilepsy during or after a seizure and there is no guarantee the dog will alert the person of an oncoming seizure.
For a number of seizure alert dogs, alerting behavior can occur several seconds before a seizure and in some cases as early as 45 minutes or more. Some of the exhibiting behaviors include, close eye contact, circling, pawing and barking. Seizure alert dogs can be trained to stay close to their companions for the duration of the seizure as well as fetch medications, a telephone or a caretaker. Training of these special dogs can take 6 months to 2 years depending on the availability of appropriate dogs and the tasks they are being taught. Due to the intensive level of training required, the cost ranges from $10,000 to $25,000.
In recent years, the seizure-alert dog has gained international media attention which has generated a rise in the number of people wishing to obtain such a dog for themselves or a family member who suffers from uncontrollable seizures. Unfortunately, some of the information has been inaccurate and this has lead to unrealistic expectations of these service dogs. Through factual evidence, about seizure alert dogs prospective owners as well as the general public can be empowered to make reality-based decisions.
If you or anyone you know is interested in finding out more information about the newest category of Service Dogs, contact your local Epilepsy support centre or a Service Dog training facility nearest you.
About The Author: Tina & Wayne Tuttle are dedicated pet parents, animal advocates, experienced dog handlers and the owners of two successful on-line stores.