What is a Migraine Alert Dog? Migraine Service Dog - Guide 2020

3 min read 27 Comments

service dogs for migraines
Kendall Abbott author of What is a Migraine Alert Dog?

Service Dog For Migraines

A migraine alert dog plays an important role in ensuring that migraine patients are alerted when they initially have the onset of a migraine. If you've ever suffered from the effects of a migraine, you know how hard these awful headaches are and how important quick relief is.

Spotting Early Signs

Although many people are good at spotting the early signs of a headache, sometimes a migraine can sneak up unexpectedly. When this happens, you may have a severe migraine with poor response to medication before you even know it.

This is where a service dog for migraines can be very helpful. One of the things that these dogs do is pick up on the possibility of a migraine during the early phases, hopefully in enough time to treat it before a headache gets very bad.

What Happens Before a Migraine?

Many migraine sufferers go through an early phase, called the prodrome phase, that may happen 48 hours before the pain symptoms begin. During this phase, there are symptoms related to changes in the nervous system that include:

  • Digestive upsets like diarrhea or constipation
  • Either fatigue or hyperactivity
  • Difficulty concentrating or mood swings
  • Yawning

Migraine therapy dogs are trained to support subtle changes in your behavior that might not be immediately obvious to you. Dogs are very acutely aware of everything that goes on with their owners and is likely to pick up on these changes very quickly.

How a Migraine Alert Dog Helps

The sensitive perception that dogs have is truly remarkable, from knowing when you're about to arrive home to when you're sad. Because of your dog's perception and natural bond with you, he or she will be able to swing into action when they sense something isn't right with you.

A dog's sense of smell helps them notice changes in your system that are probably otherwise unnoticeable to you. When the dog is trained in migraine therapy, he or she will know what to do to get your attention, including:

  • Staring at your or sticking very closely
  • Giving you a nudge or licking you
  • Circling around you
  • Barking to get your attention

Why Dogs Require Special Training

Even though most pets are perceptive about changes with their owners, pet dogs won't necessarily be able to alert you in the way that a migraine therapy dog does. A dog's temperament also plays a role in how well they can be used for this type of therapy.

However, the good news is that many owners are blessed with dogs that pick up on their migraines naturally, with one study revealing that 50 to 60 percent of dogs could detect their owners' migraines.

Deciding If You're a Good Fit

Like any dog, a migraine therapy dog will require some responsibility. However, it can be rewarding to have a furry friend to help you if any of these are true:

  • You find yourself having strong and even strange food cravings
  • The day or so before your migraines involves frequent bathroom trips
  • Getting sleepy right before a migraine is common for you

Service Dog Gear

If you do decide that getting a service dog to help with your migraines makes sense, we offer a variety of service dog gear you will want to check out.

People who get warning signs before their migraine hits often do very well having a migraine therapy dog. Consider the benefits of a service dog for migraines or therapy dog if this is something that may work well for you and your circumstances.


Meet The Author 

Kendall Abbott

Kendall Abbott obtained her Bachelor's Degree at the University of Kansas, she then went on to pursue her education and love for animals by attending the Animal Behavior College. Kendall began her professional career as an animal care technician for the Kansas Humane Society. After finishing school Kendall followed her passion for dog training and took a position with Beyond The Dog. After 5 years she then left to focus on being a freelance dog trainer.



27 Responses

ASHLEY
ASHLEY

July 16, 2018

I have suffered with chronic ocular migraines for over 10 years. Last year I got my inner ear, Diath, pierced; I haven’t had a full blown migraine since.

Alli with SitStay
Alli with SitStay

July 11, 2018

Hi Tori,

Older dogs can be trained to help you with your migraines. I would talk to your mom about getting him/her trained with a professional, so then you won’t have to get a new one and you’ll have the help you need. Now whether a service dog can help you or not, I can not say. I would discuss with your doctor about if one could help with your migraines. Good luck!

Thank you!

Tori
Tori

July 11, 2018

I am only 13 but I get really bad migraines so bad that I start to loose my vision and I can’t focus at all. The only problem is my mom would never alow me to get another dog. I have a dog already that I’m trying to train but I think he may be to old (he’s 4). I only usually get the migraines during school so I wouldn’t really need a service dog outside of school (though it would help). My mom says that even if I am able to train my dog to become a service dog that I wouldn’t be aloud to bring him to school. Is there any way that I could convince her to get a service dog/do I qualify/can you give me tips on how to train my 4 year old dog (if I even can)?

Alli with SitStay
Alli with SitStay

June 04, 2018

Hi Wanda,

I’m sorry to hear about your migraines. I would suggest locating service dog trainers in your area to see where to get started. They would be able to give you all the information on price and how to get one. You could also discuss one with your doctor. Sorry I am not more help.

Thank you!

Wanda Hobson
Wanda Hobson

June 04, 2018

I’ve had severe migraines for as long as I can remember. I’ve been to Neurologist, and several other doctors. I’ve used everything they’ve got for migraines, and nothing helps. I usually wake up in the middle of the night, and it’s already full blown. I’ve lost several jobs over the years, and was wondering how to get a migraines service dog, and what’s the cost? Please, get back to me on this….I’m very interested in getting a service dog. I could really use one.

Alli with SitStay
Alli with SitStay

June 01, 2018

Hi Chloe,

I’m sorry to hear about your migraines. If you are interested in a service dog I would suggest talking with your doctor to see if that is the right direction for you. I would then research service dog trainers in your area or people who specialize in migraine alert dogs and contact them to see what they suggest for you. Hope this helps and good luck!

Thank you!

Chloe Siemer
Chloe Siemer

June 01, 2018

I have had migraines since I was 3 the get to the point I want to kill myself they get the bad I get them weekly what do I do to get a dog

Alli with SitStay
Alli with SitStay

April 23, 2018

Hi @Swootton15,

You most likely do qualify for a service dog, but I would suggest contacting your doctor to see if a service dog could benefit you. They do need quite a bit of training. Sometimes it depends on the dog. Hope this helps!

Thank you!

swootton15
swootton15

April 19, 2018

Hello, I am in need of some advice about migraine dogs. I was diagnosed with Chairi Malformation and had a decompression surgery. Chairi is when brain tissue extends out of the spinal canal . I have contracted many of the possible symptoms for Chairi such as; constant migraine., visual disturbance, insomnia, trouble swallowing, balance issues, and tingling/ numbness in my finger tips and toes. Would I be qualified for a migraine dog or another type of service dog ? Also, would the service animal need to be trained to a great extent ?

Alli with SitStay
Alli with SitStay

April 17, 2018

Hi Angel,

I would discuss with your doctor whether a service dog is right for your situation. If you find that one could benefit you, I would look into training in your area to help your dog learn how to alert you beforehand. Hope this helps!

Thank you!

Angel McNulty
Angel McNulty

April 14, 2018

My neurologist diagnosed me with Chronic Migraine (without aura) with intractable migraine. I have noticed that my miniature dachshund has been acting funny before i get a migraine an she will not leave me while i them. How do get her to be my migraine service dog, an what does my neurologist need to do for that to happen? I live in Iowa it that makes any difference. Any help would be greatly appreciated. I have suffered from this for 2 years now and it has torn my life an my 2 kids an husbands life severely.

Thank you for your time
Angel McNulty

Alli with SitStay
Alli with SitStay

April 04, 2018

Hi Cara,

I’m sorry to hear about your friend! I would get in contact with her doctor to see if he thinks a migraine alert dog can benefit her. After that you will need to find a service dog or medical alert dog trainer and have them train your dog or find a dog that would fit her needs. Hope this helps!

Thank you!

Alli with SitStay
Alli with SitStay

April 04, 2018

Hi Chantel,

We always recommend speaking with your doctor to figure out if a migraine alert dog would benefit you. After that, you can find a service dog trainer in your area that should be able to help you find a dog to fit your needs. Hope this helps!

Thank you!

Alli with SitStay
Alli with SitStay

April 04, 2018

Hi David,

There are many breeds that can be trained to be a migraine alert dog. Some of the most common include the German shepherd, golden retriever, Labrador retrieve, poodle, collies, Bernese mountain dogs and even Pomeranian! I do believe that any breed, with the right training, has the capabilities to help you though.

Thank you!

David Golden
David Golden

March 29, 2018

Are certain breeds better suited to be migraine service dogs? I badly need an early warning system so that I won’t wait too long to take my meds. Thanks.

Chantel
Chantel

March 20, 2018

I get left side paralysis due to migraines. Specialist say I don’t necessarily even have to feel the migraines. I was wondering where you purchase these medical alert dogs.

Cara
Cara

March 09, 2018

I’m looking for info for a friend that has been on disablite for migraines that are so bad them mimic strokes. She’s lives alone and desperately needs a service dog to warn her to get some where safe. Please any info will be helpful. Thank you.

john
john

February 13, 2018

We just got a new puppy in November. I noticed he would get aggressive at wanting to lick my face and a few hours later bang migraine. I joked with my wife about him being a service dog not knowing that migraine dogs were a real thing. I will bring it up to my doctor next visit.

SitStay Hannah
SitStay Hannah

January 12, 2018

Hi Joey,
Migraine dogs are super helpful especially if it’s chronic! We would bring it up with your doctor because they will be the ones to help determine if a migraine alert dog is the best course of treatment for you.
Thank you,
Hannah

Joey
Joey

January 10, 2018

I have been diagnosed with chronic migraines, I cannot get up without being dizzy and feeling nauseated. Would a migraine alert dog be useful to me? I normally cannot tell when a migraine is going to hit me, and they are devastating in public.

Ruth Gagnon
Ruth Gagnon

November 06, 2017

My sister migraine all the time like four or five times a day

SitStay Hannah
SitStay Hannah

October 16, 2017

Hi Gracie,
We understand your pain and we recommend speaking to your doctor about how a migraine alert dog would be beneficial to you, or if there is another method that would work better for you.
Different organizations (www.assistancedogsinternational.org) are great at helping connect people to animals that can help them.
Hope this helps!

Gracie
Gracie

October 08, 2017

Hi, I have suffered from chronic migraines for several years, and after a concussion a few years ago, they only got much worse and I accrued more pain due to nerve damage. I’m in college as an architecture major, which is very intense, stressful, and time consuming, making it much more difficult with migraines. I would love to have an animal with me on campus to help cope with stress, but I believe that I could help cope or avoid migraines. I been on many different meds including the Occeptial Nerve Block Injections, but they work very little and I very often have break through pain or sever migraines that my meds can’t touch.

Could you help me in how to go about getting a migraine service dog? I have no clue where to start, but I know it would be a huge blessing to avoid all the pain before it’s too late.

Claudia
Claudia

September 19, 2017

I’ve suffered from hemipaligic migraines since I was 9 years old, now that I’m older I suffered much more and was disabled due to them constantly during my preganacy and just recently I was driving and I couldn’t see anymore, it just happened disoriented and alone I didn’t even know my name and I almost crashed. Walking in stores, I feel dizzy quickly and next thing I know the migraine happens again. I’m in dire need of a service dog to help me in times of need or console me when I pass out or get anxious due to the migraine and maybe alert me before it even happens. Thanks.

SitStay Hannah
SitStay Hannah

May 16, 2017

Hello Karen and Suka,
We recommend speaking to your respective doctors as they can help determine if a migraine alert dog is beneficial to you, or if there is another method that would work better for you.
If you already have a dog, a local organization may be able to help you train your dog to better alert you of an oncoming migraine.
Hope this helps!

Suka. Suluka
Suka. Suluka

January 23, 2017

Iam interested in having a fur best friend as my doctor. I suffer from migraine. Medicines sometimes helps. Most of the time, it’s either I get to it late. I have severe chronic migraines. Please, help me.

Karen Easterwood
Karen Easterwood

January 10, 2017

How do I go about getting a migraine dog? I suffer with them severely. Loss of speech, sight and other things as well. I average an e.r visit almost. Monthly. Thank you!!

Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.