Service Animals: Seizure-Alert Dogs

Continuing with the series on service animals, let’s explore seizure-alert dogs and how they help their humans.

I will never get over how amazing dogs are, let alone service animals. While I had heard of, and seen, a guide dog before, I had never heard of a seizure alert dog until I read the novel My Sister’s Keeper. If you aren’t sure exactly what a seizure-alert pooch can do, it’s time to find out!

For those suffering from epilepsy, seizure-alert dogs can warn people of an oncoming attack in minutes, and sometimes even hours. The early detection allows for the person to take seizure blocking medication, get to a safe place or call for assistance. Researchers and trainers believe that canines are able to detect subtle changes in human behavior or scent before an episode occurs. However, this skill cannot be taught, the dog must have the ability naturally.

Sharon Hermansen, with the Canine Seizure Assist Society of North Carolina, said that she encourages the alerting behavior with food rewards, and then trains the animals to do other tasks. The other tasks include staying with the person during an episode, or pressing a button on a phone to dial 911. In order to warn their humans of an upcoming seizure, the dogs exhibit attention-getting behaviors such as whining, pawing or barking. Canines with the alerting ability aren’t breed- specific, and can come from either a shelter or a breeder.

The more I learn about service animals, the more I am truly amazed at what they can do. Stay tuned for information on therapy dogs.

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