Alert Service Dogs for Migraines (Everything You Need to Know)

Thanks for stopping by to learn more about alert service dogs for migraines. Now, unless you’ve experienced a migraine, I don’t think you can understand the terrible pain and despair migraines cause. Am I right, migraine endurers?

Unintentionally, I’m sure one of the most hurtful things I've heard is, "oh, yes, headaches are terrible, I know! I want to scream; how can you understand if you’ve never experienced a migraine? 

Further, a standard tension or stress headache has nothing to do with a migraine attack. I can say this for sure since my good friend is a migraine sufferer. However, all migraines are different from person to person, and the duration and intensity depend on several factors.

A Little About Migraines

Woman with migraine on white background

The most brutal attacks are the ones that last for several days or even a week or two. Then, the pain seems to destroy you from the inside out, paralyzing your purity of thought, the ability to make decisions, and just to enjoy life. The only thing you think about or want is how to stop the pain.

Headaches are one of the oldest illnesses (ancient men believed that evil spirits were the cause of headaches). Further, migraines remain terra incognita. Unfortunately, there is yet not an effective treatment that works for everyone.

Many traditional anti-migraine medications, such as triptans, successfully struggle with symptoms but do not eliminate the cause. Moreover, they often become the reason for several unpleasant side effects. 

Alternative treatments for migraine headaches seem to be more effective from a long-term perspective. Today, I want to share one of such alternative methods - animal therapy.

How Alert Service Dogs for Migraines Help

Migraine dog reading to help

I’m sure you are aware that pets positively influence our emotional state, reduce stress levels, help with blood pressure and motivate us to be more active. The majority of pets help us cope with such tasks.

However, a particular type of pet can help the most; it’s a service dog, more precisely, an alert service dog for migraines.

“But, how can my dog become a service dog? Does she need a special registration?” “How is it even possible for a dog to help cure migraines?” you might ask. 

Officially, you’re not obligated to register your dog, but applying for a service dog certification can be beneficial, for example, when you need to rent an apartment with your pet. 

As for the third question, there is a unique set of exercises helping teach a dog to recognize specific actions and chemical changes in the blood or saliva of a person and react to them. 

Can Dogs Train to Spot Migraine Symptoms?

As mentioned above, people with migraines often experience aura and the so-called prodromal stage. Alert service dogs go through training to identify the symptoms of migraines. 

Early warning symptoms are a lifesaver for migraine patients: they help avoid or reduce the pain by taking medicine early. People who suffer from migraines know their unique triggers and patterns and how to change the behavior to prevent recognized triggers or handle such warning signs. For many, the aura stage is the first indicator of an upcoming attack. 

Visual disruptions such as bright lights, zigzags, or peripheral vision loss are only some examples of auras. In addition, non-visual evidence such as numbness or tingling in the legs or arms and difficulties in focusing and speech can also be signs of an upcoming migraine. 

You're halfway to controlling the intensity of a migraine attack if you can spot early warning signs. However, not everyone is capable of doing so. For some, it's already too late when the aura phase begins. Migraine alert dogs play the role of such a warning system.

Migraine Alert-Dog Recognized Symptoms

  • Yawning
  • Mood Swings
  • Cravings for Specific Foods
  • Speaking or Concentration Difficulties
  • Exhaustion
  • Frequent Bathroom Visits
  • Hyperactivity
  • Diarrhea or Constipation

Alert Service Dogs for Migraines Training Tips

Trained service dog

Training for migraine dogs is so extensive that these dogs can feel what you are feeling and alert you to an upcoming migraine. At first, it all seemed mystical to me until I realized that hearing canines help in the same way. They notify their owners when the phone rings or someone knocks on the door. 

Service dogs for migraines can alert you in a variety of ways. Like dogs trained for drug detection at airports, these dogs utilize their sharp noses to identify abnormalities in a person’s chemistry. Indeed, dogs can "smell" a migraine coming on up to 48 hours before it occurs. 

Further, to educate a dog to recognize a particular smell, it’s necessary to take a sample of your saliva when you have a migraine, store it and use it to educate your canine.

How Trained Dogs Let You Know There's a Problem

  • Nudging
  • Circling
  • Pawing
  • Shadowing
  • Licking
  • Barking or Whining
  • Staring

All dogs can recognize these signs; however, the average canine isn’t aware that you want to know what they know. Furthermore, not every dog has the needed temperament to go through the training.

If you’re going to teach your dog to identify the early signs of a migraine, it is better to start as early as possible. Puppies are far more susceptible to any sort of training.

As with any medical alert dog, it’s essential to provide proper training for your dog so that she can detect symptoms and notify you about them. However, it’s not an easy task to train a dog. That’s why I highly recommend that you enroll your pup in a specialized training class.

Alert migraine dogs in training

There is a variety of training institutions with experts specializing in training medical alert dogs. So if you suffer from migraines, it’s worth contacting them to see how they may assist. 

It’s unnecessary to leave your dog during training; you may attend training classes with your dog or have an expert medical alert dog trainer come to your home for one-on-one instruction. Some locations also provide online training, allowing you to learn more about qualified trainers’ training methods and strategies.

Note: As previously mentioned, not all dogs will become migraine alert dogs due to their temperament. A skilled trainer will help you understand whether your dog is capable of completing the training successfully or not. 

However, with appropriate training, many dogs can become migraine alert dogs in a matter of months.

How to Respond to Your Dog's Migraine Signals

  •  Be attentive to your dog’s signs.
  • To lessen the likelihood of pain, take a medication or do what you find helpful to avoid or minimize pain.
  • Always reward your dog after she makes a successful alert!

Final Thoughts

Migraines are never a pleasant experience, and there is no right time for them to happen. However, service dogs can alert their owners when a migraine is on the way, allowing them to take needed actions. While training and maintaining a dog may be costly, the ability to live an entire life without pain is worth it. 

If you want to train your dog to be a migraine alert dog, consult with a qualified dog trainer or a service dog organization. And if your headaches are severe, keep in touch with your doctor - a dog can warn you about the start of migraines, but only your doctor can help build an effective treatment plan.

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