I recently met a mother and daughter team who own a wonderful organization called Canine Partners for Life. http://www.k94life.org/html/seizure_alert.htm
The daughter has intractable epilepsy and has an uncountable number of seizures per day. (She also volunteers for the EFA.)
This is an exerpt from their brochure: “Seizure alert dogs are able to predict seizure activity anywhere from several minutes to an hour before the seizure occurs. This is a natural instinct, or ability, which some dogs are particularly inclined to act upon and it is CPL’s job to select those dogs in our service dog program who demonstrate this characteristic.
The actual ability to detect is not trained by our staff, but is instead positively reinforced when we see the dog exhibiting behaviors indicating their awareness of upcoming seizure activity. We are unsure how these dogs know that a seizure is approaching. Most likely, through its sense of smell, the dog is detecting the chemical and electrical changes within a person’s body caused by seizure activity.
The dogs are permitted to alert in the manner most comfortable to them as long as it is safe for everyone involved. Often, a dog will nudge/bump/paw its partner, or give a small whine. If the person is walking, the dog will interfere with the person’s movement, blocking their path and causing them to stop. These dogs are very reliable and consistent in their work. Their alerts are typically the same amount of time prior to each seizure which gives a sense of control and management to the human partner.
The primary benefit to the recipient is that the human partners are able to manage their activity around the time of a seizure. If their dog typically alerts 30 minutes prior, this gives them time to get to a safe place, stop unsafe activities, or notify someone that the seizure is about to occur. This makes life safer, more predictable, and much more independent!
Not all people who have seizures are good candidates for a seizure alert dog. A recipient must have several seizures per month and must have the cognitive ability to learn dog training theory, and to recognize and respond to an alert.
In addition to providing the alerts to an impending seizure, seizure alert dogs also provide balance and stability to their partners following the seizure, can retrieve the telephone or operate a medic line, and assist with any other tasks needed.”