People with epilepsy sometimes have trained service dogs to help their owners during seizures. They are trained to prevent injuries and seek help when needed.


Reasons to Train a Service Dog for Epilepsy Alert

Service dogs can perform various tasks related to their handlers’ disabilities.


 For people with epilepsy, these tasks are not limited to when a seizure occurs.

Dogs can help people with epilepsy by:

  • Sensing a seizure before it happens and notifying their handler
  • Helping to prevent seizure-related injuries by remaining close, blocking the handler from hard objects, or breaking falls
  • Alerting other people or activating an emergency device
  • Getting a medication, phone, or device in an emergency
  • Turning on lights or opening doors for people to respond or care for the handler

About 3,000 Americans die from epilepsy each year. Service dogs trained for people with epilepsy can help save lives.

Service Dog Breeds

Any dog breed can be a service dog and legally stay with its handler in places that do not otherwise allow dogs. However, some breeds are more commonly used as service dogs because of their high intelligence and temperament that aligns with performing tasks for people in need.

Dog breeds most frequently used as service dogs include:

  • Retrievers, including Labrador and golden retrievers
  • German shepherds
  • Poodles (all sizes)
  • Bernese mountain dogs
  • Great Danes
  • Collies
  • American Staffordshire terriers
  • Pomeranians

When it comes to service dogs for epilepsy, large, strong breeds are ideal so they can perform tasks such as pulling a wheelchair or breaking a fall.

Where to Find Service Dogs for Epilepsy

Any dog trained to perform a task related to their handler’s disability can legally be considered a service dog. However, that does not mean that all dogs are up for the tasks needed. Some organizations train service dogs for people with disabilities, including epilepsy, but there can be long waiting lists and high costs.

Instead, some people choose to train their service dogs. Training a service dog is not always successful; some dogs cannot perform the required tasks even after training.

Required Documentation

People with disabilities are protected under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), and dogs are not required to undergo a certification process to be considered service dogs. Further, businesses, such as schools, restaurants, and hotels, cannot legally ask for documentation or proof that the dog is a service animal.

That said, the dog must be trained, and their tasks must relate directly to the disability of their handler. Additionally, the dog must be housebroken and under control at all times.

Training Process

The training process for a service dog can be rigorous. Up to 70% of dogs that begin training do not complete it. It can take about two years to train a dog to perform epilepsy-related tasks, including housebreaking and socialization.

One of the tasks service dogs perform for people with epilepsy—alerting them of a seizure before it happens—comes naturally and is not something they need training to do. It is not fully understood how they can detect seizures before they occur.


Training a service dog trained to perform epilepsy-related tasks can cost $15,000–$50,000. Insurance companies typically do not cover this expense. Getting a service dog at no cost through a nonprofit organization is possible, but there are typically long waiting lists.

Responsibilities as a Service Dog Owner

Service dogs are not for everyone because they are a big responsibility. Owners, either those with epilepsy or their caregivers (generally for children with epilepsy), are responsible for the dog’s needs. This includes ensuring the dog is housebroken and in control while in public places. Otherwise, businesses can refuse service or not allow the dog entry.

Additionally, owners are required to pay for any damages the dogs may cause and provide all their necessary care.

Just like having a dog as a pet, service dogs require care, including:

  • Healthy food and clean water
  • Shelter
  • Opportunity to safely go outside to relieve themselves
  • Medical care
  • Grooming, including fur maintenance and dental care
  • Regular exercise

Helpful Resources and Epilepsy Organizations

There are many resources and organizations available to people with epilepsy. Some of these include the following:

  • Epilepsy Foundation: an organization that promotes research and helps people with epilepsy find needed information, resources, treatment, and support.
  • Child Neurology Foundation: an organization that helps children and families facing neurologic challenges, such as epilepsy, through research, support, advocacy, and information.
  • Paws With a Cause: an organization that provides trained service dogs to people with disabilities, including people with epilepsy.


Service dogs perform specific tasks to help people with disabilities. For people with epilepsy, this may include breaking a fall when their owner has a seizure, getting between their owner and anything that may cause them harm, and activating an emergency notification device. Some service dogs may be able to alert people of a seizure before it happens (something they do naturally and are not trained to do).

Service dogs are not required to have specific training certifications, nor are businesses allowed to ask for documentation of training certifications. However, they must be trained. This includes being housebroken and under control in public places and around other people, as well as being able to perform tasks directly related to their owner’s disability. The cost and time it takes to train these dogs can be high, but they can also prevent injuries and save lives.


  • What do you need to qualify for an epilepsy service dog?

    Anyone who has seizures can have a service dog for epilepsy. There are no specific requirements for a service dog, but some organizations that train and provide service dogs may have requirements. Such requirements may include a diagnosis of epilepsy and at least one seizure per month, being over a certain age and capable of caring for the dog, taking part in training, and having a good home for the dog.

  • Is epilepsy considered a disability?

    Epilepsy is considered a disability, and people with epilepsy are protected under the Americans With Disabilities Act.

  • How do dogs know you’re having a seizure?

    It is not entirely understood how dogs detect seizures before they happen. Some research has shown that dogs may be able to detect changes in the person, such as their smell, behavior, or both, that occur before a seizure.



Source:, Ashley Olivine Ph.D MPH, Huma Sheikh MD