Friday, October 10, 2008

Man’s best friend- now psychic?

On one of my bus rides home I met a woman with a service dog, only she was not blind. Although I was fully aware that dogs provide a wide variety of services to humans, ranging from leading blind people to detecting narcotics, explosives and missing persons; I was not aware that dogs have the ability to predict an epileptic seizure minutes, sometimes hours before it occurs.

Further research led me to the National Geographic news, in which an article was published on this subject. According to the article, which was written after interviewing several trainers and service dog owners, there are no conclusive or scientific based facts that explain why dogs have this ability. According to one of the trainers that were interviewed in this article, this may be attributed to the canine’s highly developed sense of smell. It is hypothesized by one of the trainers mentioned above that dogs may detect a slight chance in scent that they interpret as an oncoming seizure.

As of right now, a dog’s ability to perform as a seizure assist dog (which is the legal terminology used to date) has not been associated with specific breeds of dogs.

While dogs have proven a consistent ability to serve as assistants to blind people, as well as narcotics and explosives detectors; seizure assist dogs’ status as a common assistance tool has yet to be established. This is due mainly to the fact that we have yet to decipher the exact reason as to this unique trait, which creates a difficulty to develop a standardized training or testing.

Currently dogs are assumed to either “have it” or not and there is no telling how many dogs out there can detect an oncoming seizure, however those who chose to put their trust in these dogs report that their dogs are “accurate when they listen”- as put by epileptic dog owner Dona Jacobs.

So are these dogs actually able to detect an approaching seizure or is it just wishful thinking? If it is indeed true that they possess an innate ability to foresee certain happenings, this could improve the lives of many people in ways that western medicine will have a hard time competing with.

For full article click here

Posted by Noam Pelleg


At 10:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My aunt actually has a "eplileptic seziure aid", He is a golden retriver. I dont know how they do it, but I agree that it could be scent. Luckily my aunts dog Brew, hasnt needed to aid her yet. But these dogs definelty are becoming more popular with the epileptic community. I think it is a wonderful thing, I wonder what else they will be able to train dogs to do. Great article

Mia DiFabbio

At 1:53 PM, Blogger PWH said...

This is a very interesting article. I had no idea that there were service dogs that have the ability to detect seizures before they happen. How do they know which dogs "have it" and which ones don't? Since people who have them say that it works I am also wondering if there is no training how the dogs know what to do when a seizure is about to happen?

-Tara Quist

At 1:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was really interesting to read. It is amazing what dogs can do! They certainly do have an incredible sense of smell.
Did they article propose any ideas for researching this concept scientifically?

Cecelia Hunt

At 9:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Similiar to the seizure warning dogs, I believe that some dogs have actually been able to show to detect cancer. Here is one article about it.
By searching "cancer sniffing dogs" on google, you'll find a lot more about it. Maybe the way a dog can sniff cancer is similar to the way they can sniff out seizures?
-Corinne Delisle (4)

At 12:34 AM, Anonymous Allison Cornell said...

I have heard of these dogs, but haven't given them much thought. If the detection is from their sense of smell, what could they possibly be smelling? If there is no way of knowing which dogs have the ability, how do people get matched up with dogs? (Or don't they?) What do dogs do to indicate a seizure is going to occur?

Allison Cornell (4)

At 11:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What kind of warning does the dog give when it detect the seizure? bark?

- David Huynh

At 8:53 PM, Blogger Dan said...

It's quite astonishing how dogs are able help humans in so many ways. I wonder what they'll be able to do next. As for the article, what is the success rate of detecting an oncoming seizure?

~Dan Hong

At 10:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not so long ago, I read in the newspaper that a dog rescued a handicap person from a fire in the house. I believe it was one of retriever kinds. I wonder how intelligence of dogs would affect such performances since there are limited numbers of dogs that can be used as "rescue" dogs.

Posted by: Yi, Jeongsang

At 10:50 PM, Blogger PWH said...

This is pretty cool, my best friend was diagnosed with epilepsy not long ago so your blog definitely caught my attention. I noticed you spelt change (as in of scent),wrong but you did great with everything else. I was wondering if there is a distinct reaction that the dogs behave in to warn their owners or is it something different for every dog? Does the owner and dog have their own language? I'm wondering do they bark or what's their signal method when they are predicting the oncoming seizure?

Ashley Maillet

At 10:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder how many dogs are out there with this ability. It makes me think of those stories were a dog will dial 911 or pull some sort of lassie-like move to save an owner. Maybe some of these dogs were born with these abilities to detect and react to our health and conditions but their talents go unnoticed until there is an emergency. I don't quite understand how they know that a dog has these abilities to begin with. The article said that no one is sure how the dogs are able to detect seizures and suggested smell, but I wonder what it is that they are smelling and if each dog must first get used to his owner before being able to detect if something is wrong. Also, it seems golden retrievers are great dogs for aids, I wonder what makes them so different from all of the other breeds.

Rachel Carboni

At 10:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This was a good article, I really want to know what the dogs do once they are able to detect the oncoming seizure? Are the dogs trained in that area?

Tazneena Ishaque

At 12:56 AM, Blogger PWH said...

I really have never heard of this before. I do understand however that dogs can pick up on chemical fluctuations in humans. As I read this article, several questions arose. How do the dogs warn about the seizures and even if they do warn the person how can they prevent a seizure if they know its going to occur. As to the question of how they actually determine that the person is going to have a seizure is a great question. I think that they can either smell the chemical onset or maybe sense the onset of some other factor that goes into Seizures.

Patrick Salome

At 2:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I saw that many people were wondering how dogs alert their owners of an oncoming seizure.
According to the article, as well as an alert dog owner, dogs alert their owners in various ways that range from barking to rubbing against their legs and sometimes walking around them in a circle. As of right now (according to what I have read on the subject) there is no set method or indication, which is why this is currently not acknowledged as a "mainstream" solution by many HMO's and medicare/medicaid programs.

Noam Pelleg


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