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A happy and content looking dog stands next to their owner. There is a dull alert icon floating above the dog representing the dogs ability to predict migraines.

Therapy Animals

In September of 2012, I was hit with an awful migraine attack. It lasted for a month and it was unrelenting.

I fell asleep with the help of medication, but the migraine was still there. I would wake up with the migraine too. I bounced from medication to medication and from doctor to doctor trying to find something to help the pain and side effects of migraine.

During my third week of the attack, the combinations of medications were starting to give me some short term relief, but I was happy to get it even if it was short-lived. What I didn’t realize at the time, was that my dog, Sam, would begin to play an ever-increasing part of my relief therapy.

Puppy with a purpose

He was a new puppy for us at that time. We had another dog at the time and while she was glad to have a playmate, that was not going to be his purpose in the family dynamic.

He loved to play, but I was his main concern. Looking back now and after reading about therapy animals I am able to see that he was becoming my therapy dog.

Learning from each other

He was not sent to any training school nor was he trained to be my therapy dog. He just became my little migraine buddy. As time went on he was becoming more in tune with my migraine attack cycles.

At first, my migraines were episodic, but over the years they became chronic. Sam somehow knew when I was going to get an attack, and I was learning from his behavior that he knew something was wrong with me.

My four-legged shadow

Sam would follow me everywhere when I was home if I had a migraine, and he even persisted as long as I was experiencing migraine symptoms. He would push his body against my legs and look up at me as if to say “I’m here to help you”.

I would spend a fair amount of time during attacks in bed. Sam wasn’t allowed on the bed so he would lay on the floor by my side of the bed. If I held out my hand he would be right there to give me a reassuring lick to let me know he was there by my side.

He followed me to the bathroom as if to make sure I was going to be ok. He was patient and waited to see what I was going to do or where I was going.

Companion and protector

I never had a lap dog until Sam started hanging out with me when I would spend time on the couch with an ice pack on my head. He would keep his eyes on me the whole time, and just keeping my hands on him made me feel better. The attacks seemed less severe when I was with Sam.

He would be my protector as well. He would stand to attention and give a bark or two if I was approached by someone as if to tell them to back off.

My little migraine buddy

I’ve read that about 50 to 60 percent of dogs act as a therapy animal with no training at all, but there are also dogs that are specially trained to alert their owners of a pending migraine attack.

Since I suffer from chronic, intractable migraine Sam is my comforter and little migraine buddy. He just makes me feel better and I am blessed to have him by my side.

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

Comments

  • newbie
    3 weeks ago

    () Sam

  • jp18
    3 weeks ago

    I had a dog for 14 years who just knew how bad my migraine was. She stuck to me like glue from pup until she passed. She always knew when my chronic migraines were getting worse and gave me extra love. She was never trained, she just knew. I was there for her when it was her time and I swear her last look at me was I am sorry to leave you alone.

  • April.Sluder moderator
    3 weeks ago

    It sounds like you had an amazing connection with your dog @jp18. I hope you have another dog like that in the future. April – Migraine.com Team

  • coffeebreath
    4 weeks ago

    Thank you Tom for sharing this lovely post. I enjoyed it very much and appreciated reading the comments as well. Wonderful!

  • Tom Picerno moderator author
    4 weeks ago

    @coffeebreath I’m glad you enjoyed the article and the comments. Thank you for the kind words! Wishing you migraine free days. Tom(migraine.com team)

  • pblask
    4 weeks ago

    I had a support dog, not trained or listed. He wasn’t just for migraines, but helped me with my anxiety and panic attacks when going out, he went practically everywhere with me. He stayed by my side when I was in pain, migraine or one of my other diagnoses. His head was always on my lap or chest during those times, just looking at me with those brown eyes, as if saying that he was here for me. My family called him my Velcro dog.
    Unfortunately, he died 3 years ago, by actions a veterinarian did, well before his time.

  • Tom Picerno moderator author
    4 weeks ago

    @pblask thank you for sharing your story. It sounds like he was a wonderful companion and friend to you. I’m sorry to hear that he passed so soon. I’m sure that was difficult. Do you have any plans to get another companion?
    Wishing you migrine free days. Tom(migraine.com team)

  • x0gda4
    1 month ago

    I had a cockatiel who was so good at predicting migraines when they were still episodic hemiplegic variety, my boss would take “Henry’s telling me I’m getting a migraine attack,” and that was good enough excuse for a day off. My boss was also a migrainuer, so that helped, too. Unfortunately Henry met an untimely death, and he’s crossed the rainbow bridge. I have another cockatiel now, Roscoe, who can’t predict migraines, but he sits as close to me as he can when the pain gets bad from now constant migraine for the past 1 2 years, and is a comfort to me emotionally.

  • Tom Picerno moderator author
    4 weeks ago

    @0gda4 Thanks for sharing your story. It was nice to hear about how Henry was your therapy bird as well as Roscoe just being there for you. Animals can be so intuitive it really amazes me. Wishing you migraine-free days. Tom(migraine.com team)

  • ctaylor
    1 month ago

    My migraine buddy is ClaraBelle. She is my 4-year-old American Basset Hound. When I first picked her up from the breeder I was having a huge migraine. She spent the entire hour and a half trip home cuddled against my head. When I went through a pain management workshop and was asked my preferred strategy I told them “basset ears”. Petting them brought me an emotional comfort that no drugs could.

  • Tom Picerno moderator author
    4 weeks ago

    @ctaylor it was so nice to hear about ClaraBelle. it is awesome to hear how she comforts you during an attack. It always amazes me how animals just seem to understand our pain and step in to provide us some much-needed comfort. Wishing you migraine free days.Tom (migraine.com team)

  • NRODMAN
    1 month ago

    I have had chronic migraines for 50 years. Needless to say, most of the time I have suffered alone or with one partner or another… until my divorce and my girls begged me to get a dog..or two.
    Now it’s 13 1/2 years later and my children have grown and moved away. But the three of us are so close and in-tune that when it became known to me about Emotional Support Animals, I had them registered.
    It was simple to get the medical paperwork since they are indeed my rays of sunshine.
    Suffering from MS also, when I fall, they are there by my side licking me. When I am a hermit, they are my companions.
    I am blessed with these little guys and highly recommend one if they could fit into your life too.

  • Tom Picerno moderator author
    4 weeks ago

    @NRODMAN thanks for sharing your story. I’m so lucky to have my dog Sam as a support animal. It means a lot to know he will be there when I’m not feeling well. It’s nice to know your little guys stick with you as well! Wishing you migraine-free days. Tom (migraine.com team)

  • Anne
    1 month ago

    My dog is extra attentive when I have a migraine as well. He spends hours in my bed curled up next to me during an attack and won’t leave my side. Migraines can be really lonely and depressing – it’s such a gift to have my puppy to keep my company when I can’t really interact with people.

  • Marci Kallick moderator
    1 month ago

    Hi @annequin-harkin, thank you for taking the time to share your experience about your helpful pup! I am so glad to hear how your dog provides you with comfort and companionship during those difficult times. Similar to your best friend by your side…the community is here to support you as well. Continue to come back for information, support or simply shared experiences. We are always here for you. ~Marci (Migraine.com team)

  • glassmind
    1 month ago

    So happy you have a canine migraine ally!

    I have a cat registered as a service animal. Without training just by nature this buddy has helped me for years with mood, cognitive and sleep disorders and stepped right in when migraines joined the party.

    He pesters me when I am failing to keep good routine and self care. He alerts me to impending attacks. He comforts me when ill. He lets me know if I’ve left the kettle on or a door unlocked. Breaks my “zone” if I am overdoing myself and helps me sleep as well as providing routine snd purpose.

    Hail to therapy animals!

  • April.Sluder moderator
    1 month ago

    Your cat sounds amazing @glassmind. It’s great that he’s able to be such a blessing to you. April – Migraine.com Team

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