For people who suffer from a seizure-inducing disorder, daily life can be quite scary. No matter where these people go, whom they are with or what they are doing, there is always the risk of having a dangerous seizure episode, falling and being injured. Previously, affected people relied largely upon the intuition of relatives who might be able to administer important seizure medication in time to prevent or lessen the seizure symptoms. Now, with the help of highly trained and specialized seizure dogs, people who suffer from a seizure-inducing disorder such as autism or epilepsy are able to lead safer, more normal lives.
Seizure dogs serve a very important purpose in an affected person’s life. In addition to providing constant companionship, a trained seizure dog can actually smell an impending seizure in time to alert the affected person’s loved ones. This early warning system is an all-important development in the lives of people and families affected by a seizure disorder.
How Does it Work?
Although scientists disagree slightly on how, exactly, seizure dogs can detect an impending episode, the general consensus is that it has to do with subtle hormonal changes that occur within the affected person immediately before the seizure begins. Many scientists believe that, when a seizure is imminent, it triggers an autonomic response in the nervous system that then triggers sweat gland activity and changes in brain waves. Due to their extraordinary senses, specially trained seizure dogs can notice these subtle physiological shifts in time to warn the affected person and their loved ones.
What do Seizure Dogs do?
When the dog has detected the subtle hormonal changes that indicate an impending seizure, it will do one of several things depending on its training: it may gently take the affected person’s hand in its mouth and guide him or her to a safe area such as a chair in order to avoid falls, or it may bark or otherwise alert family members that medicine needs to be administered immediately. Some dogs even place their body between the seizing person and the floor in order to break a fall and lessen injury. Regardless of their training or background, however, all seizure dogs are taught to remain close to a seizing person in order to help them deal with the seizure itself as well as its aftermath and recovery.
For people who suffer from a seizure disorder, daily life presents challenges not experienced by the rest of the population. In addition to providing companionship, devotion, 24-hour service and comic relief, seizure dogs serve the important purpose of acting as an alarm system, often preventing or lessening seizure-related injury in the people they care for. This is especially important for children, for whom a seizure disorder can be extra frightening and disorienting.
Although seizure dogs are still somewhat rare - there are not enough of them being trained to serve the entire autistic and epileptic population -- many organizations are currently pushing for more trained animals. For people who suffer from a seizure disorder, there is nothing more important than staying safe; well-trained, loving and devoted seizure dogs provide them with much-needed protection.