More than 3 million Americans and one in 100 Georgia residents lives with epilepsy, a chronic neurological disorder that causes people with the disease to have recurrent, unprovoked seizures. Anyone can develop epilepsy, and it occurs across all ages, races and genders.
Canine Assistants, a Milton-based nonprofit organization that trains and provides service dogs for children and adults with a wide variety of physical disabilities or other special needs, helps people with epilepsy lead more independent lives by providing them with seizure response dogs. In addition to physically assisting those with disabilities, Canine Assistants service dogs are instrumental in removing many of the barriers faced by people who have disabilities in today’s society.
The goal of epilepsy treatment is seizure freedom with minimal side effects, as these uncontrolled seizures and medication side effects pose various challenges to independent living, learning and employment. However, only half of people diagnosed will achieve freedom from seizures with the first medication they try, and more than one million people in the U.S. continue to experience seizures despite trying two or more antiepileptic drugs. New medications and treatments give hope to those living with uncontrolled seizures, but other strategies are needed.
Seizure-response dogs are specially trained to perform tasks that help people living with epilepsy, like remaining next to the person during a seizure, summoning help or retrieving a phone prior to a seizure when indicated by the recipient. Certain dogs may even develop the ability to predict and react in advance to an oncoming seizure once they are placed with their recipient.
Most Canine Assistants service dogs are born, raised and trained at the facility in Milton, while some are occasionally adopted from local shelters or rescue organizations and screened for temperament, personality and general health. The majority of these service dogs are golden or Labrador retrievers.
For more information on Canine Assistants, visit www.canineassistants.org.
EpilepsyAdvocate.com was created by local biopharmaceutical company UCB in 2006. The Epilepsy Advocate program offers opportunities to learn more about epilepsy and how to manage the condition. Epilepsy Advocates are people living with epilepsy and caregivers who share their success stories with the goal of inspiring individuals in the epilepsy community to seek the best possible care and make positive changes in their lives.