Published on June 22, 2004 at 3:04 AM
New Canadian research suggests that your canine friend may be able to predict epileptic seizures in children a few hours in advance.
It was found that before a seizure the dog tended to lick the child's face, act in a protective manner or whimper.
The research is detailed in the latest issue of the journal Neurology.
Dr Adam Kirton from Alberta Children's Hospital and the University of Calgary led the research team. The main goal was to study how the family dog behaved around the time a child had an epileptic fit.
Children who took part in the study had on average at least one seizure per month and had also lived with their dog for a minimum of a year.
The average warning from the dog came between two and three minutes before an attack, although one dog appeared to predict the fit five hours in advance.
Some of the dogs went to extraordinary lengths to protect the children from the effects of a seizure.
- a Sheltie-Spitz cross, sat on a toddler before a seizure to prevent her from standing;
- a Rottweiler manoevered himself on either side of a toddler to cushion the toddler's landing;
- another dog stopped eating and drinking for hours to be with a three-year-old.
- one dog pushed a young girl away from the stairs 15 minutes before an attack.
Overall most reactions were more subtle. Licking was the most common behaviour around the time of a seizure. The dogs in general acted protectively towards the child, and there were no reports of aggression.
The researchers could not be sure how the dogs recognised or anticipated epileptic seizures, but speculated that the dogs may of been able to recognise subtle visual clues or particular smells leading up to a seizure.