Dog alerting and/or responding to epileptic seizures: A scoping review

Abstract : Recently, there has been a rising interest in service dogs for people with epilepsy. Dogs have been reported as being sensitive to epileptic episodes in their owners, alerting before and/or responding during or after a seizure, with or without specific training. The purpose of this review is to present a comprehensive overview of the scientific research on seizure-alert/response dogs for people with epilepsy. We aimed to identify the existing scientific literature on the topic, describe the characteristics of seizure-alert/response dogs, and evaluate the state of the evidence base and outcomes. Out of 28 studies published in peer-reviewed journals dealing with this topic, only 5 (one prospective study and four self-reported questionnaires) qualified for inclusion according to PRISMA guidelines. Reported times of alert before seizure varied widely among dogs (with a range from 10 seconds to 5 hours) but seemed to be reliable (accuracy from ≥70% to 85% according to owner reports). Alerting behaviors were generally described as attention-getting. The alert applied to many seizure types. Dogs mentioned as being seizure-alert dogs varied in size and breed. Training methods differed between service animal programs, partially relying on hypothesized cues used by dogs (e.g., variations in behavior, scent, heart rate). Most studies indicated an increase in quality of life and a reduction in the seizure frequency when living with a dog demonstrating seizure-related behavior. However, the level of methodological rigor was generally poor. In conclusion, scientific data are still too scarce and preliminary to reach any definitive conclusion regarding the success of dogs in alerting for an impending seizure, the cues on which this ability may be based, the best type of dog, and associated training. While these preliminary data suggest that this is a promising topic, further research is needed.
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Amélie Catala, Hugo Cousillas, Martine Hausberger, Marine Grandgeorge. Dog alerting and/or responding to epileptic seizures: A scoping review. PLoS ONE, Public Library of Science, 2018, 13 (12), pp.e0208280. ⟨10.1371/journal.pone.0208280⟩. ⟨hal-01945390⟩

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