Animals have long been used around the world for serving all sorts of purposes. The evolution of mankind and its best friend, the dog, has taken some interesting turns throughout the course of history. As we learn more about these amazing animals, we continue to find new applications for their incredible talents. In more recent years, we have taken to using dogs for such diverse purposes as finding dead bodies, detecting bombs, and even helping those who suffer from illnesses such as epilepsy.
If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with epilepsy, this resource should contain useful information that can help you better understand the illness and methods for dealing with it. First, let’s go over a basic rundown of what epilepsy is.
Basic Epilepsy Information
Epilepsy, sometimes called seizure disorder, affects roughly 65 million people around the world with over 3 million epileptics in the United States alone. Epilepsy is a neurological condition that causes sufferers to experience what are called seizures with varying frequency. Seizures are caused by electrical disturbances in the brain which can result in sporadic, jerking movements, loss of consciousness, and convulsions with rigidity.
Seizures themselves, when severe enough, can pose a threat to the health of the epileptic and can even result in death in extreme conditions, but one of the primary concerns for those who suffer from epilepsy is the danger presented by the symptoms of a seizure. Seizures can often result in causing a person to fall over on the ground and become incapacitated. This is very dangerous due to the risk of injury from falling in addition to the risk of being left lying prone in dangerous places such as the middle of the street.
Because of this, it’s very important that those who suffer from frequent seizures have some sort of safety net in place to prevent as much harm as possible. One of the best ways to provide safety to an epileptic without drastically impeding their quality of life is through the use of service dogs that can aid them during seizures in various ways. Before we dive into the specifics of service dogs for epilepsy, let’s briefly go over what exactly a service dog is.
What is a Service Dog?
Service dogs are dogs that are highly trained to perform specific tasks for the people to whom they are assigned. The training that service dogs undergo and the tasks they are trained for vary greatly in nature depending on their intended purpose. Service dogs are used to aid those who suffer from all sorts of illnesses or disabilities such as blindness, deafness, and epilepsy. Service dogs are also used for mental illnesses such as anxiety or PTSD.
They are trained to be very comfortable in all kinds of situations and settings because they need to keep calm even under extreme conditions in order to best serve their purpose and keep their owner safe and comfortable. Service dogs must also be capable of being around other people or animals without causing a disruption. If service dogs were to act out, the owner could be forced to leave the location with their animal. Due to this, it is of the utmost importance that service dogs be highly adaptable to varying environments and be trained to never cause a disturbance.
Not everyone can qualify for having a service dog and they are also generally very expensive to purchase due to the rigorous training they must undergo. Some businesses that train service animals spend two years or longer training the animal to perform their duties. Furthermore, the training required of service animals often involves the person who will be using that service animal so that the owner can learn how best to handle the animal and understand the signals that they give. Both future owners and animals alike are taught commands they can use in daily life to manage the animal and understand what is expected.
Service dogs are amazing animals that can perform all sorts of complicated tasks. One of the primary benefits of a service dog is the fact that they are protected by laws that allow their owners to bring them with them virtually anywhere they go—even into places that would otherwise not allow animals to be there. This is important because service dogs often provide their owners with services that are essential for maintaining their safety and wellbeing. This is especially true in the case of epileptics who employ the use of a service dog.
How Can a Service Dog Help Epileptics?
Sometimes called seizure alert dogs, some dogs are trained to detect seizures before they happen and alert their owners that they may suffer from an epileptic episode soon. This allows the epileptic a small amount of time to prepare themselves for the oncoming seizure. Furthermore, service dogs trained for epileptics can also place themselves under their owners to help ease them to the ground or move them away from falling in dangerous directions such as into the street. They also alert others to the need of their owner and are capable of activating emergency alert devices or fetching a phone so that medical services can be called after the seizure ends.
Some dogs have an innate ability to detect seizures before they occur. Scientists aren’t certain how these animals are able to achieve this, but a generally accepted theory is that they do this by smelling the chemical change that occurs in the brain prior to a seizure taking place. Regardless of how they do it, dogs who are trained to act as service animals for epilepsy are tested for this innate ability and then trained to hone that capability. They are also taught what to do when the seizure occurs.
What Breeds Can Sense Seizures?
There are many breeds that have shown an innate ability to sense seizures before they happen. Some of the more common breeds of dog that have demonstrated this ability are Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, Rough Collies, Rottweilers, Poodles, Akitas, Great Pyrenees, and Cairn Terriers. Other breeds have shown the ability to detect seizures before they occur as well, but these are the most commonly reported ones with that ability.
Seizure dogs are almost never wrong when they alert to an oncoming seizure, but the timing can vary greatly between as short as 10 seconds and all the way up to hours before the attack. Service dogs trained to aid those with epilepsy learn specific ways to alert their owner of the oncoming seizure and the owners are also trained in handling techniques and the recognition of these alerts. The training process is intensive and includes training the animal to be calm under very stressful circumstances. This is essential as service dogs are expected to perform their duties no matter what is going on around them and they often find themselves in crowded areas such as busy streets or packed restaurants.
The extent of training necessary to create a well-behaved and effective service dog means that service dogs for epileptics are not cheap.
How Much is a Service Dog for Epileptics?
Owning any pet comes with associated costs such as food and veterinary services, but service dogs are especially expensive due to their extensive training. A fully-trained service dog can cost anywhere from $15,000 to $70,000 depending on its breed and training. The initial training of a service dog is typically the most expensive aspect of a service dog, but many purebred animals with long histories of healthy parentage can be quite expensive in their own right.
Most of the costs associated with service dogs are front-loaded in the first year of training and initial medical expenses such as vaccinations and general checkups. There are numerous methods available to prospective service dog owners to help them afford the expense such as nonprofit grants, loans, and crowdfunding.
A grant is often the most appealing way to purchase a service dog, but the waitlists for receiving funds from a grant can be quite long. Loans are always an option but the terms of the loan should be heavily researched before any commitments are made. Lastly, crowdfunding is the process of asking for many small donations from a community of supporters which can result in quickly gaining access to the money necessary for affording a service dog but this method is not guaranteed to work.
Service Dog Training
Service dogs are required to perform very specific tasks for their owners that require intensive training to ensure they are capable of relying on performing their duty. In addition to the specific training for fulfilling their primary role, service dogs must also be highly trained for maintaining their calm in stressful situations and when surrounded by other people or animals. Due to this, the training required for a service dog to successfully fulfill their role is a long and complex process that is quite expensive.
Service dogs must be properly trained to deal with social environments such as being on a plane, in a restaurant, or walking along a busy road. They need to be social and friendly and must never lash out or act threateningly. They need to be good with other people and animals so that they can accompany their owners no matter where they go. Service dogs must also be able to adapt well to different environments so they can perform their duty regardless of where they are.
It’s also important that service dogs below- or non-shedding animals to avoid complications such as setting off allergic reactions in people around them. In addition to the allergy concern, service dogs should also not shed much to avoid creating a mess in their wake. It is the owner’s responsibility to pick up after their animals just like in any other situation involving an owner and their animal. Service dogs can not be refused entry into locations due to the needs of the owner to have them by their side; however, they can be removed from those locations if the animal doesn’t remain in control of the owner or if it damages any property.
How Do You Get a Service Dog for Epilepsy?
In order to qualify for any service animal, a person must have some sort of disability that necessitates having one. Furthermore, a medical professional must prescribe a service dog for that patient. The benefits of having a service dog are tremendous. This is especially the case for people who suffer from epilepsy as service dogs can give them a sense of freedom and independence. Service dogs for epilepsy provide their owners with the security and confidence they need to lead a normal life without fear of a seizure putting them in undue harm.
Service dogs for epileptics are capable of drastically improving the quality of life of their owners by providing services that keep them safe. They can alert them to oncoming seizures and provide aid during seizures such as bringing attention to them or contacting emergency services through the use of specialized devices the animal can activate.
The first step to obtaining a service dog is getting approval from your doctor. Once you and your doctor have agreed that a service dog is a good fit for you and your situation, you can begin the process of finding the right animal for you. The service animal experts at USSA can help you understand all the options available to you and aid you in your search for the right animal. USSA can also help you get the documentation and registration information that will help you and your service dog lead the life you want to live without the interference of others. The experts at USSA can also help you understand your legal rights and give you the tools you need to hit the ground running with your service animal.
Browse the resources available on the USSA website to learn more about service animals and emotional support animals to find the right option for your needs. Contact us today with any questions you might have about service dogs or to get started with the registration process.