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"Fifteen per cent: of dogs able to predict childrens' seizures

23 June, 2004

A study, published in the journal Neurology,
has identified that around 40 per cent of families of children with
epilepsy have reported reactions from their pet dogs when the child has
a seizure and around 15 per cent of dogs have showed an ability to
anticpate the child's seizure before it occurs.

In this study of 45 families by Alberta Children's Hospital
it was showed that the most common response behaviour was licking,
often of the face, followed by decreased motor activity, "protective"
behavior without aggression, and whimpering. Breeds of the
seizure-alerting dogs included Golden Retriever, Standard Poodle,
German Shepard, Akita, Rough Collie, Rottweiler, Cairn Terrier, Great
Pyranees, and a mixed breed, but no particular size, gender or breed of
dog appeared better at reacting to seizures.

The
study includes some specific examples of alerting behaviors: A
Sheltie-Spitz cross would forcibly sit on her toddler and not allow her
to stand prior to a drop attack. An Akita would push her young girl
away from the stairs 15 minutes before a convulsion.

However,
lead researcher Dr Adam Kirton said that the study was on a small scale
and should be regarded as preliminary. He said parents with children
with epilepsy should not go out and buy a dog just because they heard
about this study and that further research was needed.

Asked whether dogs can smell the onset of a seizure, the researchers suggested the trigger is probably a visual one.