- Asthma alert dogs
At the Assistance Dog Trainer Center T.A.R.S.Q.® we only train asthma alert dogs who can actually warn of asthma attacks.
Alert dogs react BEFORE the asthma attack occurs and warn the asthmatic in good time!
An asthma alert dog is an assistance dog who warns an asthmatic of severe asthma attacks and gives them the opportunity to take medication early on, before the attack can become life-threatening. Asthma alert dogs can save lives and reduce the danger of severe asthma attacks. Asthma alert dogs are trained for both children and adults, primarily as owner trained dogs accompanied by an assistance dog trainer.
- The tasks of an asthma alert dog
The main task of an asthma alert dog is to give an early warning of a life-threatening asthma attack. The alert dog is aware of an asthma attack shortly before it occurs, and lets its partner know by prodding or laying down its paw. The way in which asthma alert dogs warn of an oncoming attack is innate and does not need to be trained. In training, this natural ability is encouraged and developed.
Additionally, an asthma alert dog can learn to bring asthma spray and fetch assistance if needed. If the asthmatic lives alone, the asthma alert dog can also get help in an emergency.
A dog can't be taught the ability to give a warning before a life-threatening event becomes severe. Either the dog has the sensitivity to pick up on an oncoming event, or it doesn't. It is therefore of paramount importance to choose the right dog who possess this innate ability. Not every dog can recognize oncoming asthma attacks before they happen.
A dog has to be born an asthma alert dog - you can't make an asthma alert dog!
An asthma alert dog has to want to notice an oncoming seizure a few minutes before it occurs, and to make their partner aware of it. An asthma alert dog has to act on its own initiative and not just give a warning when commanded to. This fact illustrates the uniqueness of alert dogs, and the difficulty in finding and training them. If a dog doesn't want to alert an asthmatic to an oncoming attack, it won't do it. If a dog doesn't have the ability to recognize life-threatening attacks before they happen, it will never be able to gain the ability. Neither the trainer nor the asthmatic can really influence the ability to reliably give a warning prior to an attack. This depends on several factors, such as the ability of the dog, the bond it has, and the reaction of the asthmatic.
During training at the International Assistance Dog Center T.A.R.S.Q.®, a qualified assistance dog trainer will help the team to encourage reliable warnings and avoid mistakes, so that the asthmatic can really rely on their asthma alert dog. It is especially important to the International Assistance Dog Center that asthmatics can rely on their asthma alert dogs to give reliable warnings.
- Preconditions for having an asthma alert dog
- You or your child suffer from severe asthma attacks, which your attending physician classifies as a severe disability.
- Your life is limited by the illness and you expect to be able to improve your security and quality of life with an asthma alert dog.
- The asthmatic should be willing to react to every warning the dog gives, and to take measures every time the dog alerts.
- The asthmatic is willing and capable of developing and maintaining a strong bond with the asthma alert dog.
- The asthma alert dog must have the strongest connection with the asthmatic, so that it knows who it should look after. All other family members must restrict their interactions with the asthma alert dog, so that they don't endanger the reliability of the dog as an alert dog.
- The asthmatic stays with the asthma alert dog 24 hours a day. The asthmatic always remains close to the asthma alert dog, so that the dog can help them.
- The asthma alert dog is the only dog in the household, so that other dogs do not distract it from its work. Other animals such as cats in the household present no problem.
- If the asthma alert dog is trained for a child, the child should want to have the asthma alert dog and do the extra daily work required. An asthma alert dog should not just be brought in on the wishes of the parents. Your child should be at least six years old, although a minimum age of four is possible in special cases upon discussion with the assistance dog trainer in your area.
- Scientific studies on asthma alert dogs
In 2014 the research team at the German Assistance Dog Center T.A.R.S.Q. succeeded in finding out what dogs notice when they warn of life-threatening asthma attacks. The results show that dogs give a warning, because they perceive reduced oxygen saturation.
In a seven year long behavioral study, the researchers found out that dogs don't just react in the same way to hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia., but also to focal epileptic seizures, migraine attacks and life-threatening asthma attacks. Dogs between the ages of three weeks and seven years took part in the study. They all had the innate ability to give a warning without having received any training, which they did by prodding at the hand, ear, leg and mouth, licking the hand and laying out their paw. They gave the same identical warning with all illnesses. Dogs who warned of hypoglycemia gave the same type of warnings for migraine attacks and focal seizures. This observation suggested that dogs notice the same thing with all these illnesses.
Between May 2013 and February 2014 the team at the German Assistance Dog Center carried out a study with 24 participants and fourteen dogs. The participants consisted of seven type 1 diabetics, one type 2 diabetic, two epileptics with focal seizures, one asthmatic and one migraine sufferer, as well as twelve healthy people, all between ten and 63 years old. All the dogs had been proven to have the innate ability to warn and showed this ability with those known to them, as well as study participants who were strangers to them. The dogs consisted of two crossbreeds , seven rough Collies, four Lollies and one Poodle. Each participant was observed over several days with different dogs, with only one dog being in the room at any one time. During this time each participant wore a pulse oximeter on their finger, which constantly measured the SpO2 level of the participant. The diabetics regularly measured their blood sugar. At the beginning of the study, it was determined that each participant had a normal SpO2 level, while the blood sugar levels of the diabetics were optimal and the epileptics, migraine sufferers and asthmatics were not in any danger of an imminent attack. The dogs did not give a warning with any of the healthy participants over the whole course of the study. The healthy participants' SpO2 level also did not change. The SpO2 levels of the diabetics sank by at least three units from the normal individual levels every time their blood sugar sank to the level of oncoming hypoglycemia or rose to the level of oncoming hyperglycemia. The SpO2 levels of the epileptics decreased significantly shortly before a focal seizure. The SpO2 levels of the asthmatic and the migraine sufferer also decreased shortly before an attack. Every time that the pulse oximeter showed a decrease of three to four units, the dog stood up, went to the test person and showed typical warning behavior by prodding, licking or laying down a paw. If a diabetic delayed snacking on a carbohydrate after a warning of hypoglycemia from the dog, the SpO2 level decreased further to SpO2 91. When a slow decrease of blood sugar levels into hypoglycemia occurred, reduced oxygen saturation sometimes continued. The SpO2 level also sank further during focal seizures and life-threatening asthma attacks, after having in some cases increased for a short time before decreasing again. The SpO2 levels normalized again only when blood sugar levels were stable or the attacks were over. The dogs continued giving warning signs until the SpO2 level returned to normal. None of the dogs gave a warning if the SpO2 level did not decrease by at least three units. The researchers came to the realization that the dogs noticed a decreasing oxygen saturation, and this was responsible for the warnings the dogs gave. When oxygen saturation decreases , the breathing rate changes by an amount imperceptible to humans. The researchers conclude from this that the dogs hear smalls changes in breathing rate, as all warning dogs make clear ear movements to localize a noise before they go to the person and give a warning.