Aims Family dogs will sometimes alert parents when a child has a seizure in bed at night. Our preliminary consumer involvement suggested that 28% of children with epilepsies already had a dog, and 24% of these had alerted parents to the child's seizures at least once. 37% said they would consider having a dog, and only 35% would not consider having a dog in the future. We therefore wanted to assess further the feasibility and public support likely for a clinical trail of specifically trained seizure alarm dogs for monitoring children at night.
Methods A convenience sample of parents of children with nocturnal seizures were asked to complete a brief questionnaire, about their child's seizures, emergency medication, and whether they had a dog or would consider having one in the future. Data was entered into Excel and simple descriptive statistics used.
Results 13/46 (28%) of children with nocturnal seizures, involved so far, had at least 1 nocturnal seizure a week and 15% had 1 a night. 50% of affected children slept in the same room as at least 1 parent and 25% regularly used a seizure alarm or audio monitor. 20% used no precautions. 61% of the children had a neurodisability, and 61% had emergency rescue medication e.g. buccal midazolm at home for prolonged seizures. Families were generally keen to be involved in helping us scope and design future research in this area with 67% wanting to help. We know of one family, not in the consultation, who successfully adopted a specifically trained nocturnal seizure alarm dog, trained by Support Dogs, funded by the Kennel Club.
Conclusions A pilot study of training dogs to act as nocturnal seizure alarm dogs for children appears feasible: ideal families would be those who would consider owning a dog, but did not currently have one, and whose child had similar looking seizures in the day to the nocturnal seizures, occurring most days.