Dogs Respond to Non-Epileptic Seizures
Dogs may respond to seizures -- but only those caused by psychological reasons rather than epilepsy, according to new research.
WebMD News Archive
Jan. 22, 2007 -- Dogs may sense and respond to seizures -- but those caused by psychological reasons
rather than epilepsy, according to new
Although widely reported, researchers say cases of dogs predicting their
owner’s epileptic seizures have not been scientifically confirmed.
Now, two small studies suggest service dogs trained to help their owners
deal with epileptic seizures may play a role in predicting -- or perhaps even
triggering -- psychological seizures.
In the studies, researchers monitored the brain activity of seven people
with seizure response dogs and found that, in four cases, the dogs were
responding to seizures caused by psychological reasons rather than
In another case, a dog’s warning behavior may have played a role in
triggering psychological seizures in its owners, a husband and wife.
"This is important because the treatment is very different for a person
with epilepsy and one with psychological seizures, which stem from emotional
difficulties," says researcher Gregory L. Krauss, MD, of Johns Hopkins
University, in a news release.
"Epilepsy drugs are not effective for psychological seizures, and they
often have side effects," he says.
"And with proper treatment and counseling, psychological seizures can
often be eliminated," Krauss says.
People with psychological seizures need psychological evaluation and
appropriate treatment, he says.
Seizure-Sensing Service Dogs?
In the first report, published in Neurology, researchers found four
of the six people with seizure response dogs had no evidence of a neurological
basis for their seizures. These patients were diagnosed with psychogenic
nonepileptic seizures (PNES).
Krauss says it’s possible people with psychological seizures seek out
service animals for support.
"Seizure response dogs can help people during seizures, and stay by them
when they are unconscious, and provide companionship that aids them in dealing
with a chronic disorder," says Krauss.
In another report, published in the same journal, researchers described a
case in which a dog's seizure-warning behavior for a husband and wife was
related to their psychological seizures.
"If dogs can predict psychological seizures, could the seizures be a
conditioned response to stereotypical dog behaviors?” asks researcher Michael
Doherty, MD, of the Swedish Epilepsy Center in Seattle, Washington, in the
“Does having a seizure-alert dog lead people to have psychological seizures
more or less often?" he asks.
And, "Given the cost of training seizure-alert dogs, should people
requesting one be screened for psychological seizures?" Doherty