Can a dog really predict an epileptic seizure?

Obtaining a Seizure Response Dog
Rachel Walz and her seizure response dog Cappi
Rachel Walz and her seizure response dog Cappi

Despite the inability to pinpoint why and how seizure alert dogs do what they do, many patients and parents of epileptics want one of their own, if for no other reason other than to have an added measure of security. Thanks in part to the controversy spurred by the misdiagnosed cases of PNES, however, many medical professionals believe that more stringent requirements should be put in place regarding to whom these dogs are given and sold.

Mainly, experts believe that a person who receives a seizure response dog should be a clearly diagnosed epileptic, with PNES ruled out ahead of time. After all, it takes about two years and between $10,000 and $25,000 to train seizure response dogs. Although many medical professionals do not believe PNES sufferers should have a dog to respond to seizures, doctors do recognize that a dog or pet can provide emotional support and improve patients' quality of life.

Epileptics who are fortunate enough to obtain one of these dogs (which insurance usually doesn't cover) are carefully screened to ensure that they can provide the canine with the appropriate care and attention. Owners also must be willing to make the financial commitment, including initial cost of the dog, veterinary bills and other miscellaneous costs. In addition, the dogs need continuous training to keep their skills sharp.

Once a patient acquires a seizure alert or response dog, medical professionals caution patients and their families to remember that even though their dogs are amazing, they're still fallible. Scientists hope that more studies will be done to determine conclusively how and why some dogs have this ability, so that more epileptics will benefit from their abilities in the future.

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