We know that many people are able to benefit from service dogs to help when undergoing a seizure. The dogs provide protection and comfort for the patients. However, for the first time, researchers have found that dogs are actually capable of identifying the “unique odor of a seizure.”
Currently, dogs are able to alert the patient that there is an oncoming seizure. Researchers believe that it will eventually be possible to find ways that seizures can be halted before they begin due to new information they have found through their research with dogs.
Dogs have been used to help humans with a wide range of tasks and have been very beneficial to the medical field. Over the years, there have been varying levels of success when it comes to detecting issues like kidney disease, malaria, diabetes and some types of cancer. One study showed that dogs were able to find colon cancer by smelling a person’s breath 91% of the time, which is very impressive.
One of the reasons that not as many studies have been done with dogs and seizures is because there are so many different factors surrounding seizures. The development of seizures can occur for a range of reasons. For example, it could be genetic, due to a head injury or suffering a stroke or compounded with other types of issues, including depression and anxiety. With all of the variability, no wonder that few had thought to look for a specific scent to seizures.
However, with the new findings, it shows that there is a lot of promise to this technique. If it is possible for dogs to be able to predict a seizure before it started, there could be a massive benefit to the millions of people who suffer. Having a reliable warning sign could help the patient to get to a safe place before the seizure started.
Thus far, the dogs that have been able to predict seizures have all been from anecdotal evidence. It is not clear the types of cues that the dogs are using as a means to predict the seizures.
Researchers at the University of Rennes in France conducted a study that they published in Scientific Reports. The small study was geared toward whether dogs would be able to predict seizures in their owners based on scent. The researchers collected sweat and breath samples from five people who had epilepsy. Each of the patients suffered from different types of epilepsy.
The researchers took several types of odor samples from each of the participants in the study, including one during a seizure, one during rest and one during exercise. The researchers believed that it was a good idea to have an example during exercise, so the dogs were not mistakenly cueing on an increase in sweating.
There were five dogs involved in the study. These were dogs who had already undergone training to identify different types of diseases and disorders. There were several different breeds in the study including a border collie mix, a golden lab and a Chesapeake Bay retriever.
Surprisingly, the dogs were able to identify the correct seizure sample in all of the trials. On average, they were taking less than eight seconds to perform the identification. The researchers concluded that the dogs were able to key in on the scent of a seizure. Of course, more research will certainly be needed.