Real life ‘Lassie dogs’ detect epileptic fits

Today I hosted an event in the European Parliament on epilepsy.  As a chair of the Parliament’s Health Sub-Committee I chose to focus on this neurological disorder which affects around 1 in 100 people in the UK and across the EU.

Anyone can develop epilepsy at any time in their life but it is most commonly diagnosed in children and people over 65.   An epileptic fit is a very frightening experience for the sufferer and there is often no warning of when it will happen.  But what we heard today was that specially trained dogs can warn epilepsy sufferers of an upcoming seizure.  The dogs can quite literally be life savers.

The danger from an epileptic fit is not actually the condition itself, it is from the environment in which the fit takes place. Patients will often smash their heads against objects or fall down stairs. These dogs can predict an epileptic fit up to an hour before an attack happens, therefore allowing the patient to get to a place of safety.  I was surprised to learn that the dogs can also reduce the amount and intensity of the fits – amazing!  The benefits to sufferers of epilepsy are vast, however, there are benefits to the NHS too, which saves money and time because the patient doesn’t have to have an ambulance called or make a hospital visit.

We were given this presentation by an expert from Croatia, but the dogs are also specially trained by Epilepsy Action in the UK.  I hope today’s meeting helped raise awareness across all of Europe for this fantastic practice which can be a real help and comfort to people affected by epilepsy.

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