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!