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What is a Seizure Dog?

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  • Written By: Ron Marr
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 17 September 2016
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Man’s best friend has held myriad jobs over the centuries. Aside from providing deep loyalty and a seemingly endless supply of friendship, dogs have often taken part in tasks that are more pragmatic. They were first utilized to herd livestock, stand guard, defend their owners, and provide alerts in case of intruders. Of course, most everyone is aware of the amazing ability of seeing-eye dogs and the assistance they provide to the blind.

The seizure dog falls into a category somewhat like that of a seeing-eye dog, in that it provides a health-related service to its owner. A seizure dog is a canine that has been trained to alert a human, usually one suffering from epilepsy or similar malady, that a seizure is imminent. The dog may bark, paw at either the floor or its owner, come close and engage in direct eye contact, whine, or begin a circling behavior.

The goal of a seizure dog is to function as something of an early warning system. It allows the person about to suffer a seizure to lie down, thus avoiding a fall that could cause injury. The advance notice also allows the dog’s owner to contact friends, family, or medical professionals. Some seizure dogs have even been trained, as is the case with other types of service animals, to retrieve needed medicine.

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Though there is much debate over just how some dogs are able to accomplish this task, there is little question that the ability is very real. It has been suggested that the dogs notice minute, behavioral changes in their owners that are invisible to the human eye. Because of its incredible sense of smell, the dog might pick up the scent of a chemical reaction that precedes a seizure. Other experts hypothesize that dogs have something of a “sixth sense” that permits them to decipher an alteration of electrical impulses within the human brain.

Whatever the reason, seizure dogs are capable of predicting an attack anywhere from a few minutes to an hour or more before it takes place. The ability does not appear to be based on the breed, age, or the gender of a dog. It is an innate ability; some dogs have it, and some dogs don’t.

In other words, “training” a seizure dog is something of a misconception. The ability can’t be taught. However, the dog can be trained to react in a certain manner when it senses the onset of a seizure. On the same token, the dog owner must be taught to recognize the message that the dog is trying to impart.

Seizure dogs require a very close bond with their owners, much more so than in the normal dog and human relationship. This bonding allows the dog to immediately notice any behavior that is out of the ordinary. Also, these dogs require more than normal amounts of exercise and play. Such activity helps keep their stress levels low, and allows them to focus on their job.

The training of a seizure dog can require anywhere from six months to several years, and can cost well in excess of $10,000 US Dollars (USD). It should also be noted that there is very little regulation on training facilities. Anyone considering obtaining a seizure dog should research thoroughly and exercise due diligence before selecting a training facility.

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dudla
Post 1

How fascinating! I don't understand the doubt that exists in whether a dog is actually able to do sort of predict seizures since dogs and other animals can sense such things as earthquakes just before they are about to happen.

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