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Dogs can smell when a seizure is about to begin

Dogs can smell when a seizure is about to begin

Dogs can smell when a seizure is about to begin

French scientists say they have proof that dogs can pick up the smell of an epileptic seizure.

Humans emit hundreds of odor compounds that waft into the air around us. As our bodies change with age, disease and reproductive status, this cloud of volatile chemicals changes, too. What we sweat, secrete and exhale documents the ever-changing landscape inside of us.

Dogs’ sense of smell allows them to do many things that no human technology can achieve, such as sniffing out drugs, explosives, and even diseases like cancer

Amélie Catala at the University of Rennes, France, and her colleagues arenow investigated whether people give off a particular smell during epileptic seizures that dogs can recognise.

Dogs are even being trained to respond to and even sense epileptic seizures before they occur – although effectiveness varies widely, and there’s been little solid scientific evidence that such a thing is possible. 

Catala, the first author of the new research paper says, “At the moment there are anecdotes that some people report dogs alert them before a seizure, but we don’t have any strong evidence in the scientific literature.”

In the latest study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, Catala and colleagues wanted to test whether specially trained dogs could distinguish breath and body odour samples taken from epileptic patients during a seizure from samples taken during normal conditions and following an exercise session. 

Using treats as rewards, the team used bags – containing a person’s scent prior to a seizure – to train five mixed-breed dogs aged between 2 and 5 to recognise smells associated with seizures, before setting them a test.

The dogs’ ability to detect positives ranged from 67% to 100%, while their ability to correctly identify negatives ranged from 95% to 100%. The results suggest that seizures are associated with certain specific odours, regardless of the type of seizure or the background body odour of the patient.

The University of Rennes team hope the findings could lead to ways to predict when people will have a seizure.

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