Migraine Alert Dogs

I first wrote about migraine alert dogs back in January and again in July. Posting again to try to capture more people who might know of or live with a migraine-alerting dog. I’m hoping to gather a collection of details to put together a piece that will help educate doctors about this incredible skill dogs can have.

There are lots of different kinds of service dogs — dogs to help people with severely impaired sight or hearing, dogs to help do tasks for people in wheelchairs, and dogs who detect oncoming seizures in people with epilepsy or low blood sugar in diabetics. There are even dogs who can sense to start of a migraine, called migraine alert dogs. Check out my blog at Migraine.com to see what we can learn from migraine alert dogs.

And please leave a comment if you’re lucky enough to know a migraine-alerting dog so I can contact you for more details. Thanks!

7 Responses to “Migraine Alert Dogs”
  1. 09.26.2011

    My Doberman, Elka, is a self-appointed migraine alerting dog. I have enough of them that she’s consistently alerted during the “aura” stage, and few enough of them that I don’t actually feel I require a service dog or any “special” status. Any training she’s had has been in the home, by me, but I didn’t train her to alert migraines; it’s something she’s picked up on her own.

  2. Stephanie

    I have a migraine alert dog, he started to pick it up on his own so I trained him to help me out he picks them up about a half hour before it hits. Then I have time to take my medications and go home or someother safe place to wait it out.He has changed my life soo much, I am actually able to go to stores and other places by myself without worry of being stranded in a parking lot, etc. for hours. Most doctors really do not see him as helpful but he is more than they could every understand.

  3. Ashlee

    I have a migraine alert dog! :) She’s lives with me at my college, in the dorms, she goes to classes with me and even alerts to my friend who also has migraines.

  4. Amanda Hallock

    In 2002, I was prescribed a psychiatric service animal which I chose to be a rabbit and trained. He later picked up on my migraines and added migraine alert service animal to his list of skills. However last year the government changed the laws for ADA and now only dogs have any rights. I am working on gaining independent living once again after a prolonged illness forced me to move home, but moving out will force the adoption of a new service dog and I can’t guarantee a migraine sniffer. :( But at least I’ll still have a helpmate with rights when I’m done.

  5. Christina E.

    Greetings, I have migraines. I have no control over my body (non-respondent muscle control) at all and once the blast of pain sets in I lose all feeling and vision. I have walked blind out of a store before. I have no warning of onset and no time to react if I could respond. In high school this happened 3/4 times a week and I would, again, be carried to the nurses or my parent’s car. I was on prophylactics like B2 and seizure pills and eating strict diets with some positive response. However, I still spent more time with them than without them.

    About three years ago, I adopted an Australian Shepherd with just the hopes of him being a cuddle-pup. He was from an abuse situation and he seemed like he just needed some love. Within 6 months of getting him he was already alerting to my migraines. I just thought he was misbehaving (he used to get really close to my face -or bark if it was going to be bad) so I took him to a trainer who made the connection for me. My dog was a helper dog. Within a year he passed public training and got his badge. It started with him telling me only on the bad ones then throughout later training he never missed one. He gives me 20-30 minutes warning before anything even happens to me. He alerts my mother to her migraines as well. He was so eager to please and to help me whenever it happened that his training went fast! I started taking him to my college classes, work, on aeroplanes, everywhere. I have a friend who has seizures and he is the same way around her which leads me to think that the link between dogs and migraine alert has to be the bodies response with pheromones. He has an amazing nose and he really could find that ONE pea in a haystack. Because of him, I have my life back and I am able to live without the fear of losing sight at any moment. I am still on the preventatives and I can take something to prevent the onset. Before my dog, I never even had any warning; now I do. I am thankful that my dog was innately prone to this ability. I would highly suggest the addition of a service dog to anyone who experiences migraines because life IS BETTER without them.

  6. Heidi

    I would like to know if you found information that was helpful in regards to getting/training a migraine alert dog. I am still working full time, and it is very difficult. I am not my own best advocate; I often work past when I should because I don’t alert to my own signals (and my migraine brain doesn’t “allow” me to process information correctly). I think having a migraine alert dog would make my life so much better! Thank you in advance for any information you can send my way.

  7. We found that about one in four people with migraines who live with a dog recognize that their dog’s behavior changes before their migraine to alert them that a migraine is coming. These were just regular companion dogs in this sample. There are organizations that provide trained medical alert dogs, although migraine alerting dogs are not common. You might try contacting service dog organizations in your area to ask about medical alerting dogs. You can also contact an organization in the UK called Medical Detection Dogs who can likely provide good suggestions and resources for you. Good luck and please keep me posted.

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Books by Dr. Marcus

Fit as Fido
A Doctor's Guide to Dog Therapy and Healing: The Power of Wagging Tails
Therapy Dogs in Cancer Care: A Valuable Complementary Treatment
Ever Faithful: Your Dog Can Help You Fight Cancer