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Dogs Alert Owners Of Epileptic Seizures Fits

Updated on December 9, 2012

How Do We Get Here From There?

Woof! he said

without skipping a beat

poking his head the message sugary sweet

From one screen jumping to the next for the search

the music sublime yet the man stares and lurks

When we grab a chance and take a hand

moving in focus through the forest to the land

My breath leaves me in the light

kaleidoscope white green yellow white

Circles blur my vision unclear

when the mask appears to assist have no fear

Through the trial and challenge the fit feels so stiff

unknown sudden failing but shall not be miffed

The way out from this tumultuous hush

is patience and waiting through the mud and the slush

Original Piano Solo Seizure Piano Instrumental

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


A tried and true Twitter doggy friend posted a tweet:

WOOF #Dogs can alert their owners of an epileptic seizure up to an hour before it occurs #Therapy #Dogs RT @DrDogs247

I took that information and ran, skipped and hopped with it. I wanted to understand if this was true, how it is possible and how dogs are helping in these situations? What I found was the moving video above with music and depiction of an epileptic episode.

Cats and Dogs Have Sensitive Noses

Like cats who sniff the scent of their owner when ill, specially trained dogs may detect minute changes that signal an epileptic fit. Persons who suffer from seizures may find their furry friend by their side in their hour of need.

More Than A Necklace or Bracelet

More than an alert necklace that a person wears in a dire situation, the dog can help the person in an instant and give someone enough time to take action.

Using The Body As A Signal

We can think of a hunting dog, like a pointer, who indicates with his body that the target has been found. In this case, the dog will paw, bark, circle, and get very close to the person. All of these actions would make the potential victim aware that they were about to go into an uncontrolled state of epilepsy.

Quick Reporting

Dogs can sense and notify their human companions of an oncoming seizure with this alerting behavior from several seconds up to 45 minutes or more before the onset of the seizure. The dog does this by exhibiting marked changes in behavior, including close eye contact, circling, pawing, and barking as trained or as an innate behavior.

We Do Not Understand How

Like many things in this world that we do not understand, this does not prevent us from moving forward to help people by training dog companions. We don't have to understand the why or how, only the knowledge that we observe these behaviors as fact.

  • In a1998 study by Dalziel, Uthman and his colleagues, a qualitative questionnaire was completed by 63 epilepsy subjects. Of the 63 subjects, 29 owned pet dogs. Of the 29 subjects, nine reported that their dogs responded to a seizure. These dogs remained close to their human companions, either standing or lying alongside them, sometimes licking the person’s face or hands during and immediately after the seizure.
  • In another University of Florida study nine dogs were reported to respond with signaling behavior. Three of those were reported to also alert their human companion to an "impending" seizure. Through this study it was concluded that breed, age or gender of dog did not preclude responsiveness. Further large scale data is necessary to conclusively learn more.
  • In addition, it was learned that dogs respond and alert more readily to the type of seizure that produces migraine headaches and certain types of auras.

  • Further in this discussion, some people may hypothesize that the connecting bond may play an important role in the effectiveness of the dog's behavior, because the seizure dog depends greatly upon the ability of the human companion to recognize and appropriately respond to the dog’s alerting signals.

Possible Explanations

Whether the dog senses a change in the person's odor, behavior or other encoded signal, with further study we could learn more about the close relationship between man and his dog and the subtle form a language communication that dogs have with their owner.

Can It Be Close Relationships?

Even though we don't know exactly how the dog knows before, during or after an episode, we do see that the dog signals when the human changes states. Could it be the close bond between the dog and owner that has been formed? Many pet intuitive healers and others in the 'energy' fields think our pets even reflect our illnesses in 'their' body.

Many Names For This Phenomena

Seizure-Alert, Seizure-Response, Seizure-Assist are all names given for the dog-owner relationship for these attack episodes. Some dogs have the innate ability to detect changes, while I'm learning, other dogs may actually be 'taught' to detect changes. Perhaps they can detect changes and just need to learn how to provide coded signals in the same way that many dogs are trained to communicate in place of speech?

With special training seizure-assist dogs can be trained to stay close to their companions for the duration of the seizure, retrieve the medications if placed in a special location, bring a telephone or fetch another person.

Dogs Have Seizures Too

As I have indicated, our pets may reflect the state of the owner or person's in the family. For instance, if a member of the family has diabetes, so too, can the pet. Here is a discussion about how to care for a canine with epileptic seizures.

Taking Very Special Care and Ownership of a Seizure Assist Companion Dog

In a recent radio show with Dr Christina Chambreau, we were discussing the nature of our relationships to our pets. I referred to owning a pet as analogous to having a baby or an infant for life. Meaning that we must feed, bath, walk, brush, and play with our pets. Some people consider them their children. The difference between a child and a pet is that in most cases a child will mature and develop to adulthood. We may even expect that child to care for us in our senior years.

Thus, when a person needs a service pet, specifically a seizure alert dog, a match must be made between the animal and the care-giver. A commitment for a life-time necessitates the selection and pairing of human to animal. Anyone applying for a service animal will go through a rigorous screening process to be sure they can properly care for these rare and expensive animals. I would also imagine, that a bond must form on par with a good friendship.

Number of Service Dog Organizations

Of the 120 service dog training organizations in the United States less than 20 work with seizure-assist dogs.

  • Source: “Service Dogs for People with Seizure Disorders” by Dalziel

The High Cost of Training Seizure Alert Dogs

  • The training and waiting period for these specialized dogs starts at six months and can last up to two years depending on the availability of appropriate dogs and the tasks they are being taught.

  • The price tag ranges from $10,000 to $25,000.

  • There exists no state or federal regulations for selecting clients, placing dogs and the training of these animals.

  • Resource for dogs | Assistance Dogs International Inc a coalition of not for profit organizations that train and place Assistance Dogs.

  • The Delta Society Organization | A national 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that helps people live healthier and happier lives by incorporating therapy, service and companion animals into their lives.

  • International Association of Assistance Dog Partners | A non-profit, cross-disability organization representing people partnered with guide, hearing and service dogs.

  • American Dog Trainers Network | Service dog resources throughout the United States directory list by state. Guide dogs, hearing dogs, support dogs, search and rescue dogs

  • Paws With A Cause Organization | An educational organization that trains assistance dogs nationally for people with disabilities and provides lifetime team support encouraging independence.

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.

What is Epilepsy?

Epilepsy describes the condition for a person with recurring seizures. Typically this is a chronic disorder. As illustrated in the video above, abnormal electrical activity in the brain causes uncontrollable muscle jerks, convulsions, staring, stiffness, cramps, unusual sensations, awareness, and/or behaviors.

More about Seizures | Uncontrolled electrical activity in the brain, which may produce a physical convulsion, minor physical signs, thought disturbances, or a combination of symptoms.

  • A seizure not related to epilepsy can be caused by a reaction to:

    • A drug or a vaccine

    • A high fever

    • A severe head injury

    • Stroke
    • Oxygen deprivation
    • Other disorders such diabetes, some heart conditions, and narcolepsy, among others.

The Amy Winehouse Story

Although most people may think that Amy Winehouse's death was due to a drug overdose or her struggle with alcohol, there appears to be another reason for her demise. I learned that when a person withdraws from drinking too quickly and without supervision, the body goes into a form of shock. I wonder if a companion dog could have saved her life?

The Process of Alcohol Withdrawal

Detoxing the body from alcohol takes about six weeks, with many severe symptoms during the first half of this period including anxiety, panic and insomnia. This process should always be done under guidance and supervision while the body eliminates the alcohol.

The First Three Weeks of Detoxification

Most people self medicate using liquor drinks. This drug suppresses the nervous system and liberates people from inhibitions. With the nervous system getting back on-line, the electric body begins to have tremors, hallucinations, shakes, possibly heart failure and also 'seizures.' For this reason, it is believed that Amy died of a seizure to her brain.

The Second Half of Detoxification

Slowly the nervous system adjusts and the electric impulses relax to a normal state as the alcohol level reduces in the body. However, anxiety and insomnia may last for a longer period of time. If a physician had been providing the patient anti-epileptic drugs for the first half of withdrawal, the drugs may be discontinued at this time.

Post Detox Treatment

After detoxification, the person will need rehabilitation to help prevent falling back into old habits of self medication. Dependence upon drinking, like any addiction, is hard to conquer alone and people usually must attend group sessions. It may be comforting to some people to find a companion pet to whom they can pour out their love and emotions if they can also be responsible to care for the animal.

Number of Deaths Shown Top Twenty World Countries

Country Rank
Deaths From Seizure
South Africa
United States
South Korea
Data: 24th February 2009 In addition, it has been commented that many deaths that occur during sleep seizures are not counted within these statistics.

Statistic Rate of Epilepsy Per 1000

  • Epilepsy affects 50,000,000 people worldwide.
  • It has been estimated that those suffering from chronic epileptic fits range from 4 to 10 persons per every 1,000.

  • It is interesting to note that other studies suggest developing countries have a higher proportion of epilepsy, ranging between 6 to 10 persons per 1,000, and that this means 90% of those affected live in these regions.
  • We may begin to question why the rate increases in developing countries and look at some of the key reasons for epilepsy listed above.
  • Take note: Besides dealing with the illness itself, the entire family may suffer from discrimination due to society norms, culture and myths.

  • Epilepsy responds to treatment about 70% of the time, yet about three fourths of affected people in developing countries do not get the treatment they need.
  • An estimated 0.6% of the Canadian population has epilepsy.
  • 2.3 million Americans suffer from epileptic seizures.


A Couple More Good Hubs

Disclaimer: This Information is for Educational Purposed Only

About the Author

Debby Bruck is the founder and administrator of Homeopathy World Community social network. Debby hosts a weekly Pet Health and Homeopathy radio show with co-host Dr Christina Chambreau, DVM. Each Thursday at 1PM Eastern Time you can listen, comment and ask questions. Follow Debby on Twitter to get daily updates.

Disclaimer: This Information is for Educational Purposes Only

  • The information on this blogsite is posted for educational purposes only, and not intended to constitute medical or legal advice. As with any important medical or legal matter, you are advised to consult an experienced health care provider and/or knowledgeable attorney concerning your specific health & vaccine exemption or waiver concerns.
  • No attorney-client relationship or doctor-patient relationship is intended, implied or created by the posting or viewing of information on this site; nor is a doctor-patient or an attorney-client relationship created by the submission or exchange of questions or information via email or otherwise with Debby Bruck
  • Readers are responsible for their use of information provided on this blog or linked to from this site. Debby Bruck assumes no liability for the same.
  • Debby Bruck has made reasonable efforts to ensure the accuracy of information on this blog site, but absolute accuracy is not guaranteed.
  • Always check with your health care provider


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    • profile image


      4 years ago

      As a once TA for a child with severe epilepsy, I understand the stigma of such people. She was a bright, beautiful child, but held back due to her medical condition.

    • Debby Bruck profile imageAUTHOR

      Debby Bruck 

      6 years ago

      Hello Terrye ~ Thanks for visiting and learning with me. Have a blessed day, Debby

    • TToombs08 profile image

      Terrye Toombs 

      6 years ago from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map.

      Fascinating, Debby! You can tell you did a lot of research. This is so interesting and helpful to so many. Great job!

    • Debby Bruck profile imageAUTHOR

      Debby Bruck 

      7 years ago

      Hello Dear Breen ~ I'm so happy you found this little doggy hub. We have much to learn about the companionship between animals and humans. Just imagine the potential! Hugs, Debby

    • profile image

      Breen Bergstrome 

      7 years ago

      Fantastic hub, Debby, insightful and sensitive, educated and useful.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      This is really an amazing article. You have shared great news. This is useful.


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