Can dogs predict seizures?

We are delighted to see Epilepsy Ireland supported research being featured across mainstream media today - with features included in RTÉ, The Irish Times, the Irish Examiner, the Irish Daily Mirror and the Irish Daily Mail. 

The research concerns whether untrained pet dogs can predict epileptic seizures and was conducted by Dr. Neil Powell of Queens University Belfast. 

Since 2017, Dr. Powell has been investigating something that has been reported anecdotally many times - that a person's pet dog has predicted their seizures. 

Due to these reports, we were extremely keen to support Dr. Powell's research when the opportunity arose - as up until now, there was little scientific evidence that investigated this phenomenom. 

Recently Dr. Powell published his research in the journal, MDPI Animals

The study focused on 19 pet dogs and explored how they reacted to the emergence of seizure-associated odours.This was done using two specially designed pieces of apparatus called the Remote Odour Delivery Mechanism (RODM). To carry out their investigations, researchers separately delivered epileptic seizure-associated odours and nonseizure associated odours to the dogs and recorded how they reacted to each.

The findings are quite extraordinary with ALL 19 dogs displaying behavioural changes when confronted with the seizure related odours compared to non-seizure odours. Dr. Powell commented: 

"Our findings clearly showed that all dogs reacted to the seizure-associated odour whether this was through making eye contact with their owner, touching them, crying or barking. There is a unique volatile smell linked to epiletic seizures, detectable by dogs who can in-turn warn their owner a seizure is likely to occur.

“Our research was based on pet dogs with no prior training. If we can train dogs, this has the potential to make a big difference to owners who experience unpredictable seizures and should go a long way in improving not only their safety, but also their quality of life.”

Epilepsy Ireland CEO, Peter Murphy outlined the significance of the findings:

“The study will be of huge interest to the epilepsy community. A reliable method of seizure prediction and detection is the holy grail for many people living with epilepsy as well as the parents of children with the condition. This is especially the case where seizures involve the loss of consciousness, with a high risk of injury. While recent efforts have focused on technological solutions, it is exciting and very welcome news that anecdotal reports of dogs’ ability to predict seizures have now been backed up by scientific evidence. We have been immensely proud to support Dr. Powell’s work and we hope that the findings will lead to new approaches alongside ‘man’s best friend’ that promote safety and offer reassurance for people living with epilepsy.”

If you would like to read more about this research you can read the full journal entry from MDPI Animals by clicking HERE

We would like to congratulate Dr. Powell and colleagues at Queens University Belfast for their work. If you would like to learn more about Dr. Powell's research, we are delighted to confirm that he will be taking part in our upcoming online National Conference which runs from September 30th to October 2nd. Dr. Powell will discuss his research in further detail at the conference so be sure to save the dates and join us for the event - registration details will be published on from the 13th September - we look forward to seeing you there!

We would also like to thank all our members, supporters and volunteers for their continued fundraising efforts in support of Epilepsy Ireland. Without your support, investing in research projects like this would not be possible and we would potentially not be sharing news like this with you. Thank You!