Epilepsy dogs (also known as epilepsy signal dogs or epilepsy warning dogs ) are assistance dogs for people with epilepsy . They should warn patients or their environment, is that soon begin an epileptic seizure ( seizure warning dog , Engl. Seizure alert dog ), or specifically been trained to help a epileptic during a seizure ( seizure dogs , Eng. Seizure response dog ).
In a study by Canadian neurologists , 15% of dogs living with an epileptic were able to 'predict' seizures without ever being consciously trained to do so. 80% of the dogs with this ability were female. Also 80% of these dogs belonged to the large breeds ( German Shepherd , Rottweiler, etc.).
The dogs in the study predicted an attack an average of 2.5 minutes in advance, but some dogs did so several hours in advance. The dogs often indicated the impending seizure by frequently licking the epileptic's face or by whining. Often the dogs also saved the epileptic from injury, for example by preventing him from going down stairs from an attack.
It is not yet clear how the dog will recognize the impending seizure.
Behavior during a seizure
Epilepsy dogs are often trained to help the owner during a seizure, e.g. B. by pulling dangerous objects out of the immediate vicinity of the person concerned, activating an alarm bell or drawing attention to the epileptic.
The training of epilepsy dogs is still a relatively new discipline. In contrast to guide dogs for the blind or deaf dogs , who initially live with a trainer, epilepsy dogs sometimes come to their epileptics as puppies when they are supposed to predict seizures. In this way, it can be determined relatively quickly whether the dog has prediction skills in order to then train them further and to teach the dog additional helpful behavior. In other types of training (as is customary with assistance dogs), auxiliary skills are first trained before the dogs come to their owner.
In a paper published in 2013, various studies on epilepsy dogs were analyzed. The authors come to the conclusion that specifically trained seizure warning dogs in particular are able to predict seizures, but there are no valid data on the reliability and specificity of the warning behavior, as the experimental design used in all studies has considerable methodological deficiencies. Against this background, they consider it questionable whether it is justified to expose dogs to such stressful situations.
- R. Wohlfarth, B. Mutschler, E. Bitzer: The epilepsy dog – dream dance, cruelty to animals or sensible use? In: Journal of Epileptology. 26, 2013, pp. 90-97, doi : 10.1007 / s10309-013-0313-7 .
- Gabi Rosenbaum, Bianca Willems-Hansch: Warning dogs for those affected by epilepsy : Feel and report seizures, avoid dangers. Kynos Verlag , 1st edition 2010, ISBN 978-3938071847
- A. Kirton et al .: Seizure-alerting and -response behaviors in dogs living with epileptic children. In: Neurology 2004. 62: pp. 2303-2305.
- DJ Dalziel et al .: Seizure-alert dogs: a review and preliminary study. In: Seizure 2003, 12, pp. 115–120, ( PDF; 60 kB )
- Erik Kersting, Bea Belényi, József Topál, Ádám Miklósi : Judging the effect of epilepsy-seizure alert dogs on human well-being by a self-administered questionnaire . In: Journal of Veterinary Behavior . tape 4 , no. 2 , 2009, p. 84 , doi : 10.1016 / j.jveb.2008.09.059 .