Epileptic Seizures Sensed by Canines?

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Agnomen
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Epileptic Seizures Sensed by Canines?

Post by Agnomen » Tue Jun 22, 2004 12:40 am

According to a "new study", dogs are able to detect epileptic seizures up to five hours before they occur.

http://my.webmd.com/content/article/89/ ... 13CA348%7D

It's well known that dogs, as well as other animals, are able to pick up on earthquakes before they occur, but there seems to be more science behind that than there is with a dog predicting human behavior i.e.; seizures.
Is this just medical quackery? Or are dogs really so finely attuned to their human companions that they would notice something such as this?
I'm inclined to believe it was merely coincidental on all occasions. The study is based on dogs with epileptic child companions. Don't dogs often lay across children in a playful manner? This is an example of a dog tuned in to when the child was going to have a seizure.

Does anyone here have any experience with epilepsy to give comment on this?

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Post by Skeptoid » Tue Jun 22, 2004 1:08 am

I cannot confirm or refute the findings of the study but I saw an example of the behavior on A&E's Big Dogs, Little Dogs program just last night. The dog, "Watson", could give up to a 45 minute warning of the child's seizures. Seemed plausible.

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Post by Agnomen » Tue Jun 22, 2004 1:28 am

What kind of behavior gave warning? How did it differ from the dogs normal behavior?

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Post by Quester_X » Tue Jun 22, 2004 4:55 am

I have nothing substantial to add to this conversation, just something I've read. I have a book on animals who have done incredible things. That book included the story of a women who had diabeties, and had a service dog that was trained to bring her sugary fruit drinks. He would occasionally sense a few minutes beforehand that his owner was about to faint or pass out, and would steer her towards the sofa. I suppose it's possible that they can pick up some cue that we can't register, but I'd need more evidence before I'm convinced.
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Post by MRC_Hans » Tue Jun 22, 2004 1:01 pm

A recent study (no sorry, I don't have the reference) has shown that domestic dogs are exceptionally adept at taking cues from humans. No other animal comes even close. Wolves and dogs that have been living wild for generations do not have the ability to the same extent, so it is likely that domestic dogs have been bred to have this ability. Even if this has probably not been deliberate, it is not dififcult to imagine that humans would have put preference on dogs that were good at reading cues, and this have excerted a selection pressure through the thousands of generations during which dogs have been domisticated.

So it is not surprising that a dog might be trained to detect small shanges in behaviour of their keeper and react to it. I saw a TV feature about the epilepsy helpers, but there was no mention of several hours, just the dog reacting five or ten minutes prior to the attack (which was generally more than enough to get the patient out of a potentially dangerous situation).

About the notion that "the dog can detect the attack before the patient": This is not as amazing as it might seem at first glance. Many kinds of attacks are not felt by the patient before they are in full force, and anyway, someone about to have an attack might not be the keenest observer of all.

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Post by bug_girl » Tue Jun 22, 2004 2:11 pm

i have epilepsy myself, and have two friends who have trained seizure dogs. They say they are invaluable, and don't know what they would do without them. One woman has teenage daughters, and says that the dog keeps her from embarassing them. Or, at least as much as you *can* not mortify a teenager by being their parent. :lol:

Here is the epilepsy foundation statement:
http://www.epilepsyfoundation.org/epile ... redogs.cfm

another organization takes a dimmer view:
http://www.epilepsy.com/articles/ar_1084289240.html

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Post by MRC_Hans » Tue Jun 22, 2004 2:14 pm

bug_girl wrote:*snip* Or, at least as much as you *can* not mortify a teenager by being their parent. :lol:

*snip*
I loved that one :mrgreen: .

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Post by davefoc » Sun Jun 27, 2004 4:03 pm

Agnomen wrote:It's well known that dogs, as well as other animals, are able to pick up on earthquakes before they occur, but there seems to be more science behind that than there is with a dog predicting human behavior i.e.; seizures.
This is not well known to me. I have never seen an accepted validation of this idea. I recall reading articles and seeing documentaries countering this notion.

This web site discusses the idea:
http://www.johnmartin.com/earthquakes/e ... 000072.htm

The conclusion of the study reported on by the above site:
"This study shows that a significant positive correlation does not exist between the behavior of pets in the San Jose area and the occurrence of earthquakes within the same area over the three year period from January 1983 through December 1985. Based on this random disappearance of pets with respect to earthquakes,•no scheme seems possible to predict earthquakes using newspaper reports of missing pets."

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Post by Badger » Sun Jun 27, 2004 4:42 pm

I saw a show, possibly on A&E, that theorized that the dogs smell subtle changes in body chemistry that preceed a siezure. They needed to do further investigation to prove it, though.
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Post by Rolfe » Mon Jun 28, 2004 11:50 pm

I saw a TV programme about a local woman who has very unstable, drug-resistant epilepsy, and said that getting the trained seizure dog transformed her life. And she wasn't a doggy person till then!

She doesn't seem to get much warning from him, just a few minutes, but it is apparently enough to allow her to get somewhere safe and lie down. The dog then won't let her rise until it thinks the fit is over. This has allowed her to live a relatively independent life, which she couldn't do before.

They explained the phenomenon by the dog picking up on very subtle clues the patient herself was unaware of, and then training him so that her having a fit was the most important thing in his entire life. He just lives to spot the fits - and gets his treats afterwards of course.

Apparently the idea of trying to train dogs came from one or two people who reported that their own dogs seemed to be able to do it. I've also heard that dogs can pick up the skill from each other. But there's an enormous difference between a self-taught pet and the trained dogs.

I'd be a bit dubious of claims of warning times measured in hours though.

Rolfe.
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