Dogs may be responding to psychological seizures, not epilepsy seizures

Jan 22, 2007

Reports of dogs that can predict their owners' epilepsy seizures have been anecdotal and not objectively confirmed by doctors and researchers. Some people obtain service dogs trained specifically for people with seizures. In two new studies published in the January 23, 2007, issue of Neurology, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology, researchers found that in some cases these dogs are responding to seizures caused not by epilepsy, but by psychological conditions.

"People with psychogenic seizures need psychiatric evaluation and appropriate treatment, not a specially trained dog for epileptic seizures," said study author Gregory L. Krauss, MD, of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, and a member of the American Academy of Neurology.

"This is important because the treatment is very different for a person with epilepsy and one with psychological seizures, which stem from emotional difficulties," said Krauss. "Epilepsy drugs are not effective for psychological seizures, and they often have side effects. And with proper treatment and counseling, psychological seizures can often be eliminated."

For the studies, researchers monitored seven people with seizure response dogs. Most were monitored with video electroencephalogram (EEG) tests to track seizures and electrical activity in the brain. Epileptic seizures are caused by abnormal electrical activity in the brain. For four of the people, unlike people with epilepsy, there was no abnormal electrical activity during seizures, and they were diagnosed with psychological seizures. Another person did not have the EEG test, but was also diagnosed with psychological seizures.

Krauss said it's possible that people with psychological seizures may seek out service animals for support. He noted that some people with epileptic seizures may benefit from seizure response dogs.

"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," Krauss said. "People with nonepileptic seizures require psychiatric evaluation and behavior therapy. This study demonstrates the importance of establishing an accurate diagnosis of epilepsy before obtaining a seizure response dog."

Study author Michael J. Doherty, MD, of the Swedish Epilepsy Center in Seattle, Washington, and a member of the American Academy of Neurology, said the findings raise several questions that need to be further investigated. "If dogs can predict psychological seizures, could the seizures be a conditioned response to stereotypical dog behaviors? Does having a seizure alert dog lead people to have psychological seizures more or less often? Given the cost of training seizure alert dogs, should people requesting one be screened for psychological seizures?"

Source: American Academy of Neurology

Explore further: Doctor behind 'free radical' aging theory dies

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

US northeast braces for flooding after record snow

6 hours ago

Weather forecasters and emergency officials warned Sunday that melting snow would lead to heavy flooding in parts of the US northeast, with hundreds of thousands of people told to brace for fast-rising waters.

How the hummingbird achieves its aerobatic feats

13 hours ago

(Phys.org) —The sight of a tiny hummingbird hovering in front of a flower and then darting to another with lightning speed amazes and delights. But it also leaves watchers with a persistent question: How ...

'Mind the gap' between atomically thin materials

14 hours ago

In subway stations around London, the warning to "Mind the Gap" helps commuters keep from stepping into empty space as they leave the train. When it comes to engineering single-layer atomic structures, minding ...

Recommended for you

Doctor behind 'free radical' aging theory dies

7 hours ago

Dr. Denham Harman, a renowned scientist who developed the most widely accepted theory on aging that's now used to study cancer, Alzheimer's disease and other illnesses, has died in Nebraska at age 98.

Mexican boy who had massive tumor recovering

17 hours ago

An 11-year-old Mexican boy who had pieces of a massive tumor removed and who drew international attention after U.S. officials helped him get treatment in the southwestern U.S. state of New Mexico is still recovering after ...

New medical device to make the mines safer

Nov 21, 2014

Dehydration can be a serious health issue for Australia's mining industry, but a new product to be developed with input from Flinders University's Medical Device Partnering Program (MDPP) is set to more effectively ...

US family gets $6.75 million in Botox case

Nov 20, 2014

A New York couple who said Botox treatment of their son's cerebral palsy left him with life-threatening complications and sued its manufacturer won a $6.75 million verdict from a federal jury on Thursday.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.