Dogs predict seizures with a sloppy kiss
ABC Science Online
Tuesday, 22 June 2004
Dogs can predict when a child will have an epileptic seizure up to several hours in advance, according to new Canadian research.
While not all dogs can do this, those that do tend to lick the child's face, slow down, act protectively or whimper.
One dog even pushed a young girl away from the stairs 15 minutes before an attack, the researchers reported in the latest issue of the journal Neurology.
Dr Adam Kirton led a team from Alberta Children's Hospital and the University of Calgary to see how the family dog behaved around the time a child had an epileptic seizure.
Children in the study were having at least a seizure a month and had lived with the dog for a minimum of a year.
Of the 45 families with a dog, 20 said their pet had reacted to a seizure. Of these, 10 had alerted the child or the family to a seizure and 10 had behaved in a specific way during or just after a seizure.
Dogs that predicted a seizure did so up to five hours in advance. But the average warning came between two and three minutes before an attack.
Some dogs went to extraordinary lengths to prevent the children from the effects of a seizure.
One dog, a sheltie-spitz cross, sat on a toddler before a seizure to prevent her from standing; a Rottweiler positioned himself on either side of a toddler before an attack to cushion the toddler's landing; and one dog would stop eating and drinking for hours to be with a three-year-old.
But most dogs' behaviour was more subtle. Licking was the most common behaviour around the time of a seizure, which the researchers thought the dogs had learnt in an effort to stop or shorten an attack.
In general, the dogs acted protectively towards the child, and there were no reports of aggression.
Previous research had warned people with epilepsy about having a pet dog, the researchers said. But this current research found a dog was safe and could even improve the quality of life, particularly if the dog could predict seizures.
The researchers could not say for sure how the dogs recognised or anticipated a seizure. Perhaps the dogs recognised subtle early visual clues, they said, but recognising a particular smell was less likely.
Jun 22, '04
And I Thought They Were Just Cute Cuddley Pets
Jul 22, '07
I read something very similar.