Could You Be Getting A Migraine? Ask Your Dog

Do you often wish you had a reliable way to predict when a migraine would occur? Wouldn't it be great if you knew an hour or so beforehand so you could start migraine treatment early to ward off severe symptoms? New research conducted through suggests you may have a good predictor—right at the end of a leash.

When dogs have been trained to alert their owners to impending medical conditions, like low blood sugar for people with diabetes and seizures for people with epilepsy, they're called medical detection or alert dogs. During the month of January, we posted an online survey and invited people with migraines who lived with a dog to participate. People answered questions about their dogs, their migraines, and how their dogs reacted to migraines.

Over 1000 of you completed this survey and 54 percent of you reported that you recognized a change in your dog's behavior before or during the initial phases of your migraine. Most people reported their dog became excessively attentive before or at the beginning of a migraine. People often described their dog as becoming "clingy," "glued to my side," and "Velcro dog." Intense staring, frantic licking, pawing, and whining were also frequently described. Interestingly, over half of those recognizing a migraine alerting behavior reported that this typically occurred before any migraine symptoms, usually within 2 hours of an impending migraine. And this link between a change in your dog's behavior and a migraine occurred consistently for about 60 percent of people. One in three migraineurs took advantage of their dog's predictions by beginning their migraine treatments after recognizing the change in their dog's behavior but before migraine symptoms had started.

So if you've tried to tell your doctor or others that your dog can predict your migraine and have been met with skeptism, you're not alone. Recognizing migraine alerting behavior in your dog is more common than you think. You may want to add a column to your migraine diary about your dog's behavior so you can find out if your dog might be trying to tell you something about your migraines

Thanks to all of you who participated and shared your stories. These results will be presented this fall at the large European Federation of Neurological Societies meeting that will be attended by over 5000 doctors. Thanks again, and give some extra belly scratches to your hard working dogs!

June 2013 Update: View the full published results:

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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