- While most people are aware of guide dogs for the blind or deaf, many may not know about the invaluable impact that dogs can have for those coping with a seizure disorder
- Interaction with animals has been shown to have a positive impact for those living with epilepsy and seizure disorders, helping them to feel more relaxed, positive and connected with their community
Living with a seizure disorder can be physically challenging and can take an emotional toll on many of the nearly 3 million American adults, teens and children living with epilepsy and seizure disorders. This can lead to feelings of depression, isolation and loneliness for the person living with the condition, as well as stress, worry and anxiety for family members and caregivers. Research has proven that the companionship of trained assistance animals helps individuals with seizure disorders feel more relaxed, positive and better able to manage their condition.
To raise awareness of this important tool to help families coping with seizure disorders, the Epilepsy Foundation has partnered with Eisai, celebrity animal behaviorist and star of the hit CBS television series Lucky Dog, Brandon McMillan, and 4 Paws for Ability (4 Paws), a non-profit organization focused on the training and placement of service dogs for children with a variety of conditions, including epilepsy in a new initiative called Paws for Compassion.
“While most people are aware of guide dogs for the blind or deaf, many may not know about the invaluable impact that assistance dogs can have for those households coping with a seizure disorder,” said McMillan. “In my decades of experience as an animal trainer, I’ve seen firsthand the power that animals have to enhance people’s lives and this is even more true for those coping with a serious illness.”
Service dogs, which include seizure assistance dogs for people with epilepsy and seizure disorders, are rigorously trained to perform tasks for people with various needs. Seizure assistance dogs are typically trained for 12 to18 months to help with physical challenges and to respond to a seizure in someone who has epilepsy.
“Living with a seizure disorder can be physically challenging and emotionally isolating for both the person living with the condition and their caregivers” said Nathan Fountain, M.D., Professor of Neurology and Director of the F.E. Dreifuss Comprehensive Epilepsy Program at the University of Virginia School of Medicine and Chair of the Epilepsy Foundation's Professional Advisory Board.
“Assistance dogs provide functional assistance to help people gain back independence and are trained to bark or alert when a seizure occurs. This can be extremely helpful if seizures occur frequently or during the night when caregivers are asleep.” Dr. Fountain said.
In cases where a highly-trained seizure assistance dog is not needed, research has shown that interaction with therapy dogs or even household pets can increase socialization and provide emotional support.