There are a number of benefits that come from being a dog owner - both physical health and emotional health. So, how exactly can" Man's Best Friend" support people living with epilepsy?
Many clients who already own a dog say that they have noticed their dogs become more sensitive to their seizures - with some claiming that their dogs know when they are going to have a seizure; minutes, possibly hours ahead of when the seizure actually happens. The dog may whine, bark or make them sit down, all in an assumed attempt to warn them and keep them safe. It is not known what exactly dogs can sense from their human that causes them to believe a seizure is on its way, but there is no disputing that some dogs do have this instinctive ability and have become an even bigger benefit to their owners. It could come from the dog living with their human and getting to know them quite well, but there is no definitive explanation as to why.
Huskies, Shih-Tzu's, Mixed Breeds, Poodles and Pugs have shown that they are able to detect oncoming seizures with some of EAC's clients and families but please do not run out to your local animal shelter to try to find a dog who may be able to sense seizures. There is just no way to know if any particular dog or dog breed has this ability within them. There is also no formal training or certification program for dogs to "learn" how to detect oncoming seizures.
Here is some information on the two types of Seizure Service Dogs:
Dogs: These dogs help people once they have already had a seizure. They may help by barking to alert those nearby that their owner needs help. They tend to stay with their owner to provide a comforting and orienting presence to those who may be confused or upset after a seizure is over. They can also be trained to fetch a phone, unlock doors or push alarm buttons to get help for their owners.
Dogs: These dogs can sense that their owner is about to have seizure and will warn them before hand by barking, whining or pulling on clothes to get their owner's attention. They can help their owners avoid dangerous situations - people may know to sit down, step away from the stairs or ledges, take emergency medications or get to a busy place where help may be around. Seizure Alert/Detection Dogs can also be trained to do many of the actions that a Seizure Response Dog would do in case of a seizure.
For a dog to qualify and be registered as a Certified Service Dog, they must have come from an Assistance Dogs International (ADI) accredited training facility or organization. Currently in Canada, there is only one agency that trains seizure response dogs, and no agency in Canada that trains seizure alert/detection dogs. It is an unfortunate reality for people (who may already own a dog who has an ability to detect seizures) that their dog will not be able to be certified and recognized as a Service Dog, therefore allowing it public access. Dogs who are not officially certified are not able to accompany their humans around as a certified Service Dog would be able to.
Service Dogs are specially trained to be able to help people with disabilities with everyday activities, respond to seizures and other tasks. Under the Government of Alberta's Service Dogs Act, an owner with a service dog who carries the Service Dog Team Identification Card cannot legally be denied access to any public place - whether that is restaurants, shops, taxies or any other place where the general public is allowed. The Service Dogs Act includes fines for violations, which range from $300 for falsely using a service dog to $3,000 for discriminating against a service dog team. For more information on the Service Dog Act, please follow this link: humanservices.alberta.ca/disability-services/service-dogs-faq.html
The Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides program trains dogs to become service animals for people with a variety of medical conditions and disabilities. If you are interested in applying for a Seizure Response Dog, please follow this link: www.dogguides.com/seizure.html
May 30, 2014