May 25, 2012

Could A Dog Prevent You From Fainting?

Yes, a dog can prevent you from fainting, if you are lucky enough to have one of the very special dogs trained by Canine Partners for Life, a non-profit organization based in Pennsylvania.  Canine Partners for Life has placed three "Cardiac Alert Dogs" into service so far, and they are working to train more dogs to do this.  The three dogs have been placed with one Neurally Mediated Syncope (sometimes called NCS/Neurocardiac Syncope) patient, and two POTS patients.

The dogs are trained to alert the person in advance of a faint, so the person can safely lay down before fainting.  Some people with NCS, POTS and other health problems that cause syncope, can faint without any warning.  This can lead to serious injuries, like concussions, broken bones and traumatic brain injuries.  By alerting the person to an impending faint, the dogs are allowing these individuals enough warning time to lay down, so they can avoid dangerous falls.

It is not known exactly what the dogs are detecting, but it is believed that they can sense changes in the body related to a drop in blood pressure.

One young woman, Shannon, who received the dog had experienced 13 concussions in one year from all of her fainting spells, and she had to wear a helmet at all times just to prevent any further head injuries.  Since she has begun working with her Cardiac Alert Dog, she has not had any injuries from fainting and she has been able to stop wearing her helmet.  See Shannon and her dog Clover on ABC's World News Tonight With Diane Sawyer.

There is a growing demand for Cardiac Alert Dogs, and right now there aren't enough dogs who are trained in this capacity.  POTS Grrl has been in touch with Canine Partners for Life to discuss what the dysautonomia community can do to help support the training of more dogs in this specialty.  Stay tuned for more info!


  1. wow....that is beyond awesome!!! i know a friends dog is always beside me when I faint,,,,pretty cool :)

  2. Can they get ones that are hypoallergenic? I wouldn't be able to have a regular one because of my allergies. :(

  3. I have a service dog for dysautonomia. He alerts to syncope, and can also do lots of things like pick up things I drop, cuz bending ver makes me dizzy, and can brace for balance support and can pull me in a wheelchair, or pull me along while in harness, esp if walking up a hill. He's awesome.

  4. Are there dogs who are responsive to more serious arrhythmias that can result in cardiac arrest? Our son has survived such an event, has a defibrillator, but still has episodes where he will lose consciousness, fall and injure himself. Such a dog could alert him, even by a few seconds so that he could save himself. Any information would be most appreciated.

    1. Anonymous who is asking about dogs for cardiac arrhythmias, I do not know the answer to your question, but I think you should contact Canine Partners for life. There is a link to their website in the above article.