Seizure Alert Dogs.
Dogs are far better at smelling scents than we are and this means they can carry out a range of impressive tasks, which benefit people in a great many ways. In this Holidays4Dogs article we look at the important role of seizure alert dogs.
A dog’s sense of smell is highly sensitive. While humans have only 5 million olfactory receptors, dogs have a whopping 300 million. That’s quite an impressive difference, which gives dogs the ability to smell odours at much lower levels of concentration than humans can.
As a result, dogs can be trained to detect very specific odours in minute quantities. This is how experts believe dogs are able to sense the onset of an epileptic seizure. Trained dogs are even able to detect subtle changes in breath and urine samples of cancer patients, for example. Because of these remarkable abilities, dogs have been able to positively benefit the lives of many people.
Scientific studies on the subject of whether dogs react to the normal pattern of human hormones, (such as pregnancy, period and menopause), seems to be lacking, however.
As well as their scenting abilities, dogs are also very clever at noticing physical changes in their environment. They are also very good at noticing the behaviour of their owners too. In addition, dogs are amenable to learning complex skills and chains of behaviour.
We already know that dogs can sense low blood sugar in people. Hence the success of trained diabetic alert dogs.
However, dogs are also able to detect when a person is about to have an epileptic fit. Since epilepsy is the most common neurological condition – with 600,000 cases in the UK – the skills of seizure detection dogs, is life changing for many people.
What is epilepsy and how does it affect people?
Epilepsy is a disorder of the brain which causes frequent seizures and, actually, can occur in dogs as well as people.
Electrical activity happens in the brain all the time. However, during a seizure the brain experiences a sudden burst of electrical activity. As a result, messages between cells become scrambled, setting off an epileptic seizure.
The way in which the body reacts, depends on where in the brain the electrical activity occurs. This may means someone passes out completely, or remains awake but is unable to control bodily movements.
There are many different types of epilepsy and they can affect anyone, of any age. Some types can affect someone for just a limited time, while others affect people lifelong.
Some people suffering from epilepsy are able to control seizures through medication. However, 30% of people are unable to do this. As a result, many thousands of people find living day to day very frightening – not knowing when a seizure may occur.
This affects every day life from doing the shopping, to ironing – activities that could be hazardous and potentially put sufferers in dangerous situations. Many epileptic sufferers lack a great deal of confidence as a result and this can, therefore, severely impact on a person’s sense of independence.
Support Dogs UK
Support Dogs UK is the only organisation in the UK to provide fully trained seizure dogs. They rely completely on voluntary donations. After training, dogs are able to warn a person of a seizure up to fifty minutes before it happens. The dogs are 100% reliable and provide warning of a seizure, allowing owners to find a safe and private environment until the seizure passes.
Support Dogs UK also very much believe that improving the lives of animals is important to. Therefore, they source as many dogs as possible that reside in dog’s homes across the UK. Support Dogs UK know there are many rescue dogs that have the potential to become fully trained seizure alert dogs.
Once in training, the dogs are not kennelled, but spend evenings and weekend in the care of foster carers.
Once the dogs are qualified, they are regularly health checked to confirm they are physically fit and in good health. In addition, dogs are periodically behaviour assessed to make sure they are still able and happy to do their work.
All support dogs enjoy their retirement at aged 10. Most of the dogs stay with the owners they have been supporting and, only occasionally, are retired dog placed with a new family.
If you would like more information on how you can help Support Dogs UK or, if you want to know more about applying for a support dog – please follow the links above.
The role of support dogs in human society is as incredible, as it is invaluable to many people. Without the abilities of dogs, the skills of dedicated trainers and the continued efforts of charities, many people would find their quality of life far more limited.
If you would like to learn more about how dogs can benefit people, the human-animal bond, training and all sorts of other subjects – please read some of our other Holidays4Dogs articles here.