Seizure response dogs are a special type of service dog trained to help someone who has epilepsy or a seizure disorder. The theory is that dogs can smell a seizure coming on about 30 minutes in advance (prediction), and after the seizure they can respond (response), and either action is helpful to the person with a disability. It however is unclear if dogs can actually predict seizures.
Tasks for seizure dogs may include, but are not limited to:
- Summoning help, either by finding another person or activating a medical alert or pre-programmed phone
- Pulling potentially dangerous objects away from the person’s body.
- “Blocking” to keep individuals with absence seizures and complex partial seizures from walking into obstacles, streets, and other dangerous areas that can result in bodily injury or death.
- Attempting to rouse the unconscious handler during or after a seizure.
- Providing physical support (and the secondary benefit of emotional support)
- Carrying information regarding the dog, the handler’s medical condition, instructions for first responders, emergency medication, and oxygen.
Additionally, some dogs may develop the ability to sense an impending seizure. This behavior is usually reported to have arisen spontaneously and developed over a period of time. There have been some studies where dogs were trained to alert impending seizures by using reward-based operant conditioning – with partial success.