Thursday, August 02, 2007

Dog training to sense upcoming seizures in 3 years old toddler

We've heard of rescue dogs, seeing eye dogs, even dogs used for therapy in hospitals. Now dogs are being trained to help patients at risk for seizures.

Hopefully, that's only the beginning of what one dog will give Bryant Weasel. The three-year-old has Dravet's Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that causes seizures. Before, his mom couldn't let him out of her sight, but that's changed with the arrival of a pappilion named Theo. Bryant's mother, Amy Weasel, says, "It's given him a sense of independence and it gives me a sense of relief, knowing that the dog is with him and the dog will do what the dog has been trained to do." Prison inmates first taught Theo basic commands.

Then he went to a place called "4 Paws for Ability" to learn how to be a seizure response dog. Bryant and his family went to the Xenia, Ohio facility for training. Amy Weasel says, "As soon as we walked into that building, Bryant went straight to that crate." The idea is for the two to bond so Theo will recognize when Bryant is about to have a seizure and alert his parents by barking. The theory is the dogs can sense chemical changes in the body minutes before. Amy Weasel says, "The dog is supposed to pick up on that scent.

There is no guarantee that he will, but that's what the hope is." Theo is already proving to be a loyal companion, providing a distraction to Bryant when he's getting stuck with a needle during monthly visits to the hospital for an experimental treatment aimed at decreasing his seizures. Amy Weasel says, "He also laid his head in his lap the infusion was running. He got to pet him and it relieved his anxiety and it was just fantastic." Bryant isn't the only with less anxiety. Mom and dad both sleep better at night knowing Theo is on guard.

Amy Weasel says, "He's just a beautiful, beautiful dog and we're so glad to have him." Since a seizure victim is in danger of suffocating while in bed, the dogs are trained to remove pillows and blankets as soon as the episode starts. They can lay on top of the person so he or she doesn't try to get up in a confused state. Some of them can even run and hit a button to call 911 on a specially-designed telephone.


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