Living with a seizure disorder can be physically challenging and can take an emotional toll on many of the more than 3.4 million adults, teens and children living with epilepsy in the United States. These challenges 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. Trained assistance animals can help individuals with seizure disorders feel more relaxed, positive and better able to manage their condition.
Partnership for Awareness
To raise awareness of this important tool to help families coping with seizure disorders, the Epilepsy Foundation has partnered with the following leaders in a new initiative called Paws for Compassion:
- Eisai, Inc.
- Celebrity animal behaviorist and star of the hit CBS television series Lucky Dog, Brandon McMillan
- 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
Benefits of Service Dogs
“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. This is even more true for those coping with a serious illness. - Brandon McMillan
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 MD, 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. Nathan Fountain
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.