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Epilepsy Res. 2011 Dec;97(3):236-42. doi: 10.1016/j.eplepsyres.2011.10.019. Epub 2011 Nov 1.

Can Seizure-Alert Dogs predict seizures?

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1
Peninsula College of Medicine & Dentistry, Chy Govenek, Threemilestone, Truro TR4 9LD, Cornwall, UK. stephen.brown@cantab.net

Abstract

An index observation where a dog was trained to alert to, as well as respond to, human tonic-clonic seizures led to further research and refinement of training techniques. This was followed by anecdotal reports of pet dogs spontaneously anticipating human epileptic seizures. An industry has since developed training Seizure-Alert Dogs (SADs) to give humans warnings of their seizures. In some cases this has been accompanied by a reduction in seizure frequency. SADs may be trained along with the person with epilepsy, responding specifically to that person's seizures, or may be trained separately. Recent sceptical reports of non-epileptic seizures in some people with SADs have cast doubt on dogs' ability to anticipate true epileptic seizures. This may reflect selection criteria for training programmes as well as training methods used, but does not necessarily indicate that SADs might not be able to predict epileptic seizures. Whether the seizures are epileptic or non-epileptic, it is speculated that SADs probably alert to subtle pre-ictal human behaviour changes, but may also be sensitive to heart rate or olfactory cues. As yet, however, no rigorous data exist as to whether seizure prediction by SADS is better than chance, and what false positive and negative prediction rates might be.

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