Can Dogs Help with Migraines?

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Introduction

Anyone that has ever suffered from migraines will know just how debilitating these headaches can be. Often, you are relegated to a dark room and some people struggle to even get out of bed because of the pain that they are in. 

There are various treatment options available for migraine sufferers and some people actually keep a diary so that they can note the trigger points when they have a migraine coming on. However, did you know that dogs can actually help with migraines and there are even migraine-alert-service dogs that can prove invaluable to migraine sufferers?

Signs Your Dog Will Show If a Migraine is Coming

Dogs, particularly specially-trained migraine alert dogs, are able to alert you to an upcoming migraine at the very early stages before you even realize it's happening. They are able to pick up on signals of an impending migraine up to 48 hours before the onset. They do this through being able to interpret signals in the prodrome phase of a migraine, which is the very early stage before you start to experience symptoms. By alerting you to this, your dog can enable you to take medication to prevent the onset of the pain.

There are many signs to look for if your dog is warning you about an impending migraine attack, as they tend to do this in a variety of different ways. Some of the signs that you should keep your eyes peeled for include licking you, circling, nudging you, staying right by your side, staring at you, and barking. 

All of these signs can indicate that your dog has recognized the onset of a migraine and is letting you know so that you can be proactive in its prevention. Just as seizure-alert-dogs and sight-dogs can prove invaluable to people that suffer from these conditions, migraine-alert-dogs can prove hugely helpful to migraine sufferers. 

When there is a problem and your dog wants to alert you to it, they will often use various forms of body language to do this. If your pooch wants to let you know that you have a migraine coming, you may find that they will do anything to get your attention. Many of these dogs will stay at the side of their owners when they sense a migraine in the early stages. 

When your dog picks up on the signs of a migraine, there are other signs that they may display. This could include pacing around you, staring right at you very intently, and barking as a warning sign. These are additional signs that you should look out for if you want to benefit from an early warning about your migraine.

Body Language

Some signs that your dog is trying to tell you that a migraine is coming include:

  • Barking
  • Whining
  • Pacing
  • Licking

Other Signs

Other signs to look out for are:

  • Staying by your side
  • Circling
  • Pawing
  • Nudging

History of Migraines and Dogs

Over the years, a lot of research has gone into migraines and how best to treat them. This includes research into the prodrome stage of migraines, which can be identified through a range of symptoms. This is also the stage at which you are likely to get warning signals from your dog with regards to an up and coming migraine. 

Some of the symptoms that have been identified during this early stage of a migraine include yawning a lot more, cravings for certain foods, changes in your mood, speaking difficulties, increased fatigue, going to the bathroom more, diarrhea or constipation, and hyperactivity. 

While your dog will not pick up on all of these symptoms, there are key ones that they may recognize, such as changes in your mood or behavior. This is what tells the dog that you are in the early stages of a migraine and your pooch will then know that they need to warn you about this.

Another thing that has been discovered is that not all dogs are able to alert you to migraines. Some simply do not have the right temperament to be trained to do this. Others may recognize the symptoms but not alert you to them. However, with the right training, a migraine-alert-dog can prove to be invaluable and studies have shown that many dog owners have reported that their pet acts differently toward them when there is a migraine coming on.  

The Science Behind Dogs Helping Migraine Sufferers

The way in which dogs are able to help migraine sufferers is by picking up on key symptoms during the early stages of a migraine – the prodrome stage. Your dog will not realize if you are craving certain foods or if you are using the bathroom more. 

However, they can pick up on small chemical changed from within the body. These take place as your moods switch leading to the start of a migraine. Once your pooch picks up on these symptoms, they may start to alert you using the methods outlined above. As a migraine sufferer, it is important to take heed of these signals because your dog may know that you are going to have a migraine before you do. 

Training Your Dog to Detect Migraines

If you want to train your pooch to recognize the early symptoms of a migraine, it is best to start from a young age, as puppies will be far more receptive to this type of training. As with all medical alert dogs, it is important to ensure that your dog receives the right training so that they can recognize the symptoms and warn you about them. This can be very complex, so it is often best to attend proper training classes in order for your pup to learn how to become an effective and competent migraine-alert-dog.

You will find a range of training facilities where the experts specialize in training medical alert dogs, so if you are a migraine sufferer it is well worth speaking to them to see how they can help. You don’t have to leave your dog at the facility to be trained – you also have the opportunity to attend the training with your dog or even have an experienced medical alert dog trainer come to your home for one-on-one training. Some places even offer online training so you can go online and learn about the best training methods and techniques from expert trainers.

One thing you should remember, as mentioned earlier, is that not all dogs will be able to become migraine alert dogs because of their temperament. This is something that an expert trainer will be able to advise you on, so you can then determine whether or not your dog can undertake this training successfully.  The good news is that with the right training, many dogs will be able to learn how to become migraine alert dogs within just a few months. You will then be able to look forward to the assistance of a properly trained dog to warn you when a migraine is on its way. 

How to React to Your Dog's Migraine Signals:

  • Keep an eye out for the warning signs from your pooch.
  • Be proactive and take medication to reduce the risk of pain.
  • Reward your dog for a successful alert!

Tell Us If You Have a Dog that Alerts You to Migraines!