Seizure response dogs (SRDs) are service dogs that assist people who experience epileptic and nonepileptic seizures. They may be able to alert others, provide comfort, and help owners get to a safe place after a seizure.

SRDs receive special training to perform certain helpful behaviors when their owner is having a seizure or recovering from a seizure.

This article describes the role of SRDs, how they differ from seizure alert dogs (SADs), what rights SRD owners have, and how to obtain an SRD.

A child that experiences seizures sitting with an epilepsy service dog.-1Share on Pinterest
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SRDs perform certain behaviors to assist their owners during a seizure. The types of behaviors the dog performs will depend on its training, which may be in line with the specific needs of the dog’s owner.

According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), some typical tasks that an SRD may perform include:

  • barking to alert bystanders so that they can provide any necessary medical assistance
  • standing next to their owner to help break their fall and prevent injury
  • lying next to their owner to provide comfort and protection from self-injury
  • pressing alarm buttons or other pre-programmed devices to call for help
  • helping their owners get up and walk to a safe place before or after a seizure

Seizure response dogs often perform other helpful behaviors, such as:

  • retrieving dropped items
  • helping to remove clothing
  • opening and closing doors
  • turning lights on and off
  • retrieving a phone prior to a seizure, if their owner instructs them to do so

Besides their ability to assist their owners during and after seizures, SRDs provide a constant source of unconditional love, companionship, and support.

For people who experience seizures, an SRD can boost their confidence and independence and significantly improve their quality of life.

The AKC distinguishes between two different types of epilepsy service dogs: SRDs and SADs.

The major difference between the two types is that SRDs perform certain behaviors in response to their owner having a seizure, whereas SADs naturally alert their owner to an imminent seizure.

According to the AKC, SADs have a natural ability to detect when a person is about to have a seizure. It is not possible for a person to train this ability, and researchers still do not understand how it works.

Some SADs are also SRDs because they have the ability to detect imminent seizures and receive training to respond appropriately to seizures.

Similarly, some SRDs who have been with their owner for many years develop an ability to recognize when their owner is about to have a seizure, though this does not always happen.

According to the United States Department of Justice (USDJ), SRDs are a type of service dog.

Under the American Disabilities Act, the following establishments must generally allow service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas that allow public access:

  • state and local governments
  • businesses
  • nonprofit organizations

For example, as with other service animals, an SRD may be allowed into a hospital patient room, examination room, or clinic. However, they may not be allowed into an operating room, as they could introduce pathogens into the sterile environment.

The USDJ adds that people with disabilities who use service animals cannot be subject to the following:

  • isolation from other patrons
  • less favorable treatment compared to other patrons
  • fees that do not apply to other patrons without service animals
  • deposits or fees that apply to patrons with pets that are not service animals

People with epilepsy who would like a service dog will need to enquire through a registered organization.

The Defeating Epilepsy Foundation (DEF) lists the following organizations that provide trained epilepsy service dogs:

Can someone train their dog to be a seizure dog?

According to the Epilepsy Foundation (EF), most dogs do not have the natural ability or temperament to become service dogs.

However, many pet dogs can provide unconditional love, companionship, and emotional support to their owners. As such, even a pet dog that has not received training as a SRD can hugely benefit people with epilepsy or other chronic conditions.

Service dog training can be extensive. According to the nonprofit organization Paws with a Cause (PWAC) SRDs receive specific, professional training in summoning help and providing stimulation during and after a seizure.

Their service dogs may also receive training in more general tasks, such as:

  • retrieving dropped items
  • tugging to remove clothing
  • opening doors
  • turning lights on and off
  • pulling a lightweight manual wheelchair

People could train their dog to complete these tasks by themselves or with the help of a professional trainer, but others may prefer to apply for a dog that already has the appropriate training.

SRD cost may differ from one organization to another, and some charitable organizations provide service dogs free of charge.

According to US Service Animals (USSA), the cost of an epilepsy support dog generally ranges from $15,000– $30,000 but can be as high as $50,000. Prices may differ according to the dog’s breed and the extent of its training.

PWAC explains that the cost of breeding, raising, training, and placing one of their assistance dogs exceeds $35,000. However, the organization receives funding through individual donations and provides service dogs free of charge.

They only ask that individuals who receive a PWAC dog consider hosting a personal campaign to benefit another client who is on the waiting list for a dog, although this is not a requirement.

Below are some answers to frequently asked questions about epilepsy service dogs.

Does insurance cover epilepsy dogs?

According to the USSA, health insurance companies typically do not cover the cost of epilepsy service dogs.

Can untrained dogs detect seizures?

Some untrained dogs can detect seizures, and some SRDs who have been with their owner for many years develop the ability to detect when their owner is going to have a seizure. In such cases, the ability develops without specific training.

SRDs are service dogs that perform helpful behaviors when their owners are experiencing or recovering from a seizure. This may include standing or lying by the person to provide comfort and prevent injury, alerting bystanders, and more.

Some SRDs develop the ability to detect when their owner is going to have a seizure, but they do not receive training in this area.

Seizure response dogs can cost anywhere from $15,000–$50,000, and a person’s health insurance will not cover the cost. However, many charitable organizations provide SRDs free of charge.