’Previous studies have shown that dogs can smell low blood sugar levels in their diabetic owners, along with certain cancers. They can even sniff out malaria in worn socks. Their keen sense of smell allows them to detect the associated changes to a person’s body odor resulting from an illness or health condition, a specific scent scientists refer to as an “olfactory profile.”
Anecdotal evidence suggests dogs are capable of detecting epileptic seizures before they happen—sometimes as much as 5 hours before an attack—but scientists haven’t been able to conclusively prove this, or figure out how our four-legged friends might be able to do it. Dogs might be picking up on cues beyond scent, such as detecting certain behaviors, movements, or postures in their epileptic owners prior to the onset of a seizure. At the same time, an olfactory profile for seizures doesn’t seem entirely plausible, given how variable seizures are in nature, and the specific ways in which each individual is affected.
…The aim of the new study, published today in Scientific Reports and co-authored by Amélie Catala from the University of Rennes in France, was to see if dogs are in fact capable of detecting a general epileptic seizure odor. The results of this preliminary investigation were undeniably encouraging.…’