Survey of migraine sufferers with dogs to evaluate for canine migraine-alerting behaviors

J Altern Complement Med. 2013 Jun;19(6):501-8. doi: 10.1089/acm.2012.0234. Epub 2012 Dec 4.


Objectives: Anecdotal reports suggest that changes in dog behavior might be used to predict impending migraine episodes. This survey was designed to investigate how companion dogs react to migraines that occur in their owners.

Design: Online survey was available from January 4-31, 2012.

Settings/location: Survey was conducted through SurveyMonkey, with links to the survey posted at and promoted through social media.

Subjects: Adults ≥18 years old who experience migraine episodes and live with a dog were eligible to participate.

Interventions and outcome measures: Participants completed an 18-question online survey that asked about participant demographics, migraines, and their dog's behavior before or during migraine episodes.

Results: The survey was completed by 1029 adult migraineurs (94.9% women), with migraines typically occurring ≤8 days per month in 63.4% of participants. A recognized change in the dog's behavior prior to or during the initial phase of migraine was endorsed by 552 participants (53.7%), most commonly unusual attentiveness to the owner (39.9%). Among the 466 participants providing details about their dog's behavior with their migraines, 57.3% were able to identify dog alerting behavior before symptoms of a migraine attack would typically begin, with changes usually noticed within 2 hours before the onset of initial migraine symptoms. The dog's behavior was considered to be often or usually linked with the development of a migraine for 59.2% of migraineurs, and 35.8% of migraineurs endorsed beginning migraine treatments after the dog's behavior was recognized and before migraine symptoms had started. Participant demographics, migraine frequency, and breed of dog in the home were similar between the 470 participants with no alerting behavior endorsed and the 466 participants providing detailed alerting information.

Conclusions: About one in four migraineurs living with a companion dog endorsed recognizing a change in their dog's behavior before recognizing initial symptoms of a migraine attack.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Diagnostic Self Evaluation*
  • Dogs*
  • Early Diagnosis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Migraine Disorders / diagnosis*