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Indianapolis organization trains service dogs to sense onset of seizures before they happen

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Posted at 5:46 PM, May 20, 2019

INDIANAPOLIS — A new study conducted in Indianapolis shows that people give off a specific smell before they have an epileptic seizure — a scent that dogs can pick up.

"So we can use scent to train them to do something for someone when they are going to have a seizure," Jennifer Cattet, owner of Medical Mutts Service Dogs, said.

Seizures are a common occurrence for 24-year-old Olivia Emenaker.

"There are 40 different types of seizures; half of those are convulsive, half of those are non-convulsive... I have almost every type of seizure," Emenaker said.

Dublin, Emenaker's Basset Hound, can detect every single one the seizures she is prone to. He alerts her about one minute before they start.

"He'll poke my leg with the side of either his nose or the side of his snout really hard," Emenaker explained.

That is a specific tactic Dublin learned at Medical Mutts.

"We can train dogs to alert somebody before they have a seizure, that person can get to a safe place," Cattet said.

Trainers also teach dogs how to press emergency buttons, fetch specific items, and to go get help. The organization has trained seizure alert dogs for years, but after participating in the study, there is now scientific evidence to prove their claims: Dogs can smell the onset of a seizure and be trained to respond. Something Enemaker says has changed her life.

"I lost a lot of my freedom because after they diagnosed me, I couldn't drive for a year," Enemaker said. "My mom wouldn't let me cook because she was afraid I would have a seizure and fall near the stove."

Dublin has helped her regain the life she once had. Emenaker not only drives now, but she's recently started a full-time job. She will be moving out of her mom's house in the fall, as well.

"He's [Dublin] definitely given me a lot more freedom and safety," Emenaker said. "I'm so happy to be able to work and finally get back into life."