Medical Alert / Response Dogs
Possess the ability to detect medical crises and take appropriate action before they occur
Many assistance dogs that are trained to assist their handlers with medical crises possess both the ability to detect the medical crises before they occur and the skills that are necessary to take appropriate action once the medical crises have occurred. These dogs essentially combine the roles of both Medical Alert Dogs and Medical Response Dogs.
Medical Assistance Dogs are used to mitigate an extraordinarily wide variety of medical conditions. Some of the most common medical conditions that these dogs assist their handlers with are those that entail changes in blood sugar, changes in blood pressure, seizures, syncope (fainting), migraines and other debilitating symptoms.
Medical Alert Assistance Dogs
Perhaps one of the most miraculous feats demonstrated by a assistance dog is the ability to sense a particular medical crisis both before it occurs and before the dog's handler is aware that such a crisis is imminent. Upon sensing an impending medical crisis, the dog will communicate this to his or her handler. These assistance dogs are referred to as Medical Alert Dogs.
In most cases, the ability to sense an oncoming medical crisis is innate within the dog. This means that it is not a trained skill. In fact, in regard to many medical conditions, it is not yet known for sure how dogs can sense the respective episodes or crises. Without knowing exactly what the dogs can and cannot sense, it is difficult to train a assistance dog to perform alert work for many medical conditions. In many cases, a dog who has not received training of this nature may simply become so bonded with his or her owner and in tune with the owner's condition, that the dog may develop alerting skills naturally.
Dogs who demonstrate the ability to alert to a medical crisis can be trained to communicate with their handlers in various ways, like pawing at the handler, nudging the handler, jumping up on the handler or barking. Some dogs develop their own ways of communicating with their handlers, like refusing to let them leave the house or even refusing to let them stand up. Each team is unique.
The significance of dogs who alert to medical crises before they occur is not in the alerts themselves, but in the opportunities that are presented to handlers who know something is awry before it happens. Once a handler is aware that a particular medical condition is going to occur, he or she can take appropriate action, like getting to a safe place, taking emergency medication or getting help from someone else.