Purpose: Gather data on incidence of canine alerting/responding behavior with a defined patient population. Research development and use of purported alerting dogs.
Methods: Review of the literature was performed. A qualitative questionnaire was completed by epilepsy patients. Service dog trainers were identified.
Results: Of 63 patients, 29 owned pet dogs. Nine reported their dog responded to seizures, three also were reported to alert to seizure onset. There was no significant evidence of correlation between alerting/responding behavior and the patients' demographics, health, or attitude/opinion of pets. Seizure-alerting/responding behavior of the dog did not appear to depend on its age, gender or breed. A literature review revealed psychological and practical benefits of service dogs are well documented. Fifteen trainers of seizure-assist dogs were identified and interviewed.
Conclusions: Findings suggest some dogs have innate ability to alert and/or respond to seizures. Suggests a trend in type of seizure/auras a dog may alert to. Success of these dogs depends largely on the handler's awareness and response to the dog's alerting behavior. Warrants further research to aid in the selection of patients who may benefit from seizure-assist dogs, for identification and further training of these dogs and possibly the development of seizure-alerting devices.