Dogs can detect seizures by smell according to study

A group of scientific researchers from France claim they have proven that can are capable of using smell to detect epileptic seizures.

The team of researchers out of the University of Rennes are hoping that their results will lead to new methods of seizure detection.

These new methods may include dogs or even “electronic noses” which would be designed to identify the distinct scents given off during a seizure.

The ability of dogs to detect other diseases has been noted numerous times in relation to cancers, Parkinson’s, malaria and diabetes.

There are some people with epilepsy that already rely on dogs to detect seizures, one specific case highlights a dog sleeping in a child’s bedroom as it was capable of recognising a nocturnal seizure and alerting family members.

One of the latest studies which was carried out in the scientific journal “Scientific Reports”  involved training five dogs from the group Medical Mutts in the US, to recognises the distinct smell created by the sweat taken from a patient having a seizure.

Then they were offered a choice of seven different sweat samples from a number of different patients. These patients were either; relaxing, exercising or having a seizure when the samples were taken.

First step

Three of the dogs found the seizure sweat sample every time whilst two of the dogs were accurate 66% of the time.

The report stated: "The results are extremely clear and constitute a first step towards identifying a seizure-specific odour."

This will require a detailed chemical examination to identify which distinct compounds are involved to create the scent.

The study does not explain how epileptic seizure can lead to a change in smell.

Help patients

Dr Amelie Catala, from the University of Rennes, told BBC News: "Further research is needed but it is possible that the change in electrical activity triggers the releasing of some neurohormones that will in the end trigger the scent or that it is linked to stress-related molecules and pathways, or anything else - all hypothesis are still to be considered."

But the researchers hope the field could eventually help patients.

"It could lead to significant improvements in terms of seizure detection or prediction systems," the report adds.