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Studies of dogs that can detect the ‘smell’ of an epileptic seizure

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With a little help from dogs, scientists in France believe they are on the cusp of being able to predict the onset of an epileptic fit.

By Nick Whittle , 3 Apr 2019

A study undertaken by the University of Rennes has concluded that the scent of someone suffering a seizure is detectable by the canine nose.

Epilepsy is a common condition worldwide. Its causes are not clear but it affects the brain in various ways and can cause frequent and violent seizures. It is believed the chaotic electrical disturbances within the brain of a sufferer release specific odours detectable to dogs.

Epilepsy can affect any person of any age and at any time but it is most often seen of young children and people over 60 years old.

According to an initial report detailing the study, ‘The results are extremely clear and constitute a first step towards identifying a seizure-specific odour.’

Bio-detection dogs save lives

The findings have led the University to consider the possibility that dogs can detect the onset of a fit before it debilitates the patient.

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.’

To be able to detect seizures before they happen will enable doctors and nurses to treat a patient more quickly. It would also enable those who suffer with epilepsy to avoid the embarrassment, inconvenience and the danger of a seizure in public, and instead reach a place of safety before its onset.

Medical Detection Dogs is a company that trains dogs to detect human diseases. It is believed certain dogs (called bio-detection dogs) are able to detect life-limiting or potentially terminal diseases before the illness takes hold.


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