Migraines have a significant impact on a person’s family, school and work life. About 35 million Americans suffer from migraine headaches according to a research by the The Migraine Institute in California. Migraines are expressed by a moderate or severe headache felt as a throbbing pain on the side of the head. an interfere with the person’s ability to actively engage in social events, their work and lead to increased irritability.
Who Is Affected by Migraine?
Migraine predominantly affects women and that is thought to be due to specific hormonal changes. People who suffer from chronic migraine usually have a family history of migraine attacks; they are usually between 18 to 44 years of age; they may exhibit depression, anxiety and sleep problems. There is a common misconception that only adults suffer from migraine, however, boys and girls before entering puberty can have migraine too. Most patients with migraine had their first attack before the age of twelve. The Migraine Institute warns that if 1 parent has migraine, a child has a 50 percent chance of inheriting it.
Migraine episodes can be short, about 4 hours in the best case, or last for about 3 days in the worst case. According to the World Health Organization chronic migraine affects 1.7–4% of the world’s adult population and they experience at least 15 migraine headache days per month. The crushing pain in the head is usually accompanied by nausea, vomiting, dizziness, blurry vision, temporary loss of vision, sensitivity to light and sound. Chronic migraine is difficult to treat since some prescribed medication comes with intolerable side effects. Migraine episodes incur substantial personal suffering, impaired quality of life and financial costs as the afected individual often has problems with their work routine and social connections.
Types of Migraine
It is possible for a person to have sporadic episodes of migraine and sometimes have weeks or months between migraine episodes. There are three general types of migraine that we have listed below:
Migraine with aura – there are specific warning signs before the migraine episode occurs such as seeing flashing lights.
Migraine without aura – the migraine episode erupts spontaneously and has no warning signs.
Silent migraine – this is specific migraine where the person does not exhibit a headache but they experience heightened sensitivity to light and sound, which can be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, dizziness, blurry vision.
How Does a Service Dog for Migraines Work?
Migraine Alert Service Dogs are trained to spot physiological changes in their owner or behavioral cues that signal the onset of an imminent migraine attack. These smart dogs can detect the release of pheromones associated with a migraine episode which can start about 48 hours prior to the migraine attack. The release of pheromones is gradual and leads to the aura phase where you can feel the immediate onset of the migraine. Migraine Alert dogs can use their acute sense of smell to detect changes in your body chemistry the same way detection dogs help security teams at the airport or the border patrol.
Migraine Alert Service Dogs can use several cues to let you know that a migraine attack is likely to occur soon. These interactions include — nudging (with their paw or nose); licking; circling around you; sticking close to you and maintaining strong body contact; barking while keeping eye contact with you. An article at the National Center for Biotechnology Information platform reveals that 53.7% of the 1029 interviewed adults affected by migraine noticed unusual attentiveness from their dogs shortly before they experienced a migraine attack. Our paw partners are in sync with our behavioral cues and our physiological changes and we should pay attention to their reaction as it can help in managing our migraine episodes. Service dogs can help with monitoring our blood glucose levels, address psychological problems, alleviate mobility challenges and many other aspects of our life.
Who Can Have a Migraine Alert Service Dog?
If you are struggling with a chronic migraine and your migraine attacks are severe you should talk to your GP/family medicine doctor first. Only persons with a disability can use service dogs by law. Service dog training for people with migraine has to be done directly and there is no online course that can be a reliable substitute. The training can take about a year or more. The scent of your breath is what the dogs will focus on to detect changes in your body chemistry. If you own a dog that stays close to you and tends to cling to you shortly before you have a migraine attack you may want to monitor their behavior for a few weeks and take a note each time. This can help you decide if they might be a good candidate for Migraine Alert Service Dog training.
Should it be proven that your dog can pick up cues in your breath and behavior you could look for a dog training school in your area that can train your paw partner to become a service dog.