Service Dogs
Migraine Alert Dog: Everything You Need to Know

Migraine Alert Dog: Everything You Need to Know

If you or someone you know suffers from migraines, then a migraine alert dog may be the answer. It can provide life-changing relief for those who suffer from debilitating migraine attacks. Migraine is a disorder characterized by recurrent headaches often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, light sensitivity, and increased sensitivity to sound. According to the National Headache Foundation, migraine affects more than 37 million people in America alone!

Migraine Alert Dog: Everything You Need to Know

The majority of migraine sufferers are women with about 18% of men also experiencing migraines but usually less severe ones. The severity of migraine varies from person to person and there are different types that range anywhere from mild tension-type headache to an intense throbbing pain that causes temporary loss of consciousness.

Migraine Alert Dog: Everything You Need to Know

A migraine alert dog will not only help the migraine sufferer by providing them with a migraine alert to warn of an upcoming migraine attack, but they will also provide relief for those who suffer from chronic pain or other neurological disorders.

Migraine Alert Dog Definition

A migraine alert dog is a dog that is specially trained to pick up on a headache or migraine before the sufferer knows it’s happening. This amazing ability relies on the dog’s keen senses, such as a sense of smell 100,000 times more acute than ours.

A migraine alert dog can notice the earliest signs of migraine – the prodrome phase. The warning phase of a migraine can start up to two days before the worst symptoms occur. Gradually, over those 48 hours or so, changes happen in the central nervous system that might not be noticed if they’re not paying attention.

A migraine is typically preceded by sensory warning signs that alert you when one is about to hit. These may include:

  • A sudden and severe change in mood
  • Intolerance to light or sound
  • A migraine will often cause the person discomfort and have a stiff neck.

The migraine alert dog is trained to detect these sensory warning signs such as changes in behaviors, emotions, and even heart rate which may indicate an upcoming migraine attack. The migraine sufferer can then act before it is too late.

Migraine alert dogs can be trained to perform many tasks for their handlers. In this video, I talk about the tasks that my medical alert dog does for me specifically related to migraines.

A migraine alert dog can provide the following benefits:

– Alerting migraine sufferer of an upcoming migraine attack and providing necessary relief in advance to prevent or reduce severe symptoms.

How does a Migraine Alert Dog Help?

There are several different ways a dog may let their handler know that they are going to get a migraine. The migraine alert dog will be trained to perform specific tasks when they sense an impending migraine attack:

  • To go directly to the migraine sufferer if they are not in the same room.
  • Stare at their owner or sticking very close
  • Giving them a nudge or licking you
  • Circling around you

The one thing they shouldn’t do is bark to let you know – after all, noise is usually a bad thing for a migraine sufferer.


Other things a Migraine Alert Dog might do:

– To go to a migraine sufferer’s bedroom and lay with them on their bed or cuddle up next to them on the couch, providing comfort and relief from pain.

– If outside they will lead their handler back home if they sense an imminent migraine attack.

In my case, Tazuna climbs in my lap, puts a paw on each of my shoulders, and then nudges my chin with her nose. It’s pretty obvious that she is alerting me, LOL.

Migraine Alert Dog Training

Is special training needed for a migraine alert dog?

No, migraine alert dogs are typically trained in just a few weeks with the help of an expert. It is important for migraine sufferers to work closely with their trainers so they can effectively train and communicate using body language. The dog must have patience and understanding because this training takes time for both parties involved while also requiring that all expectations be met.

The migraine alert dog and its migraine sufferer must have a strong bond to be effective. The migraine sufferer will need to learn how to detect the sensory warning signs of an upcoming migraine attack which are often difficult for people who do not suffer from migraines themselves. Once everyone communicates effectively, there is no limit as to what this animal can do to help migraine sufferers.

Migraine Alert Dog Training – What Tasks Can A Migraine Alerting Dog Do For Me

Migraine Alert Dog Certification:

– Who can certify migraine alert dogs?

Certification is not necessary to train an animal as a migraine alert dog. However, if you plan on using the service of a migraine alert dog for any type of certification exam or public setting, then it’s important to know that there are organizations that do this work and have guidelines in place to help migraine sufferers and their dogs.

– What are the requirements for certification?

The main requirement is that a migraine alert dog must be able to accurately detect changes in mood, behavior, or even heart rate which may indicate an upcoming migraine attack before it is too late. This means they need to have an impeccable sense of smell because migraine sufferers cannot always detect the migraine at its onset.

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Migraine Alert Dog Organization:

Here are some migraine alert dog organizations that migraine sufferers can find reliable:

  • The International Association of Assistance Dog Partners (IAADP)
  • National Service Animal Registry (NSAR)
  • American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen Program.

It is important to know that you do NOT need to be part of an organization or registry.

Migraine Alert Dog Breeds

migraine alert dog

– What breeds are migraine alert dogs?

Migraine alert dog breeds can include a variety of different animals. It is important to know that there may not be any one breed, in particular, that is better than the next because it depends on an individual’s preferences and needs. This decision should never be made based solely on looks, but rather the migraine sufferer should find an animal that they can trust.

Migraine alert dog breeds include Labradors, Border Collies, and German Shepherds to name a few. Golden Retrievers can get the job done, and in my case? It is an Australian Shepherd. Each migraine sufferer will have their own unique needs which is why it is important for migraine sufferers to find an animal that they can work with.

Migraine alert dog in car

– Do migraine alert dogs go in the car?

Yes, migraine alert dogs should ride with their migraine sufferer whenever possible. Just like any service dog, they should be able to go anywhere their handler does. If they alert, it lets everyone get home, or to a safe location before the migraine hits.

Migraine Alert Dog Laws:

People get their undies all in a bundle about different laws in different states. Here is the thing – I will share what I know, but the Federal ADA for service animals will overrule them all.

Migraine Alert Dog Laws:

– Which states allow migraine alert dogs?

The following states allow migraine alert dogs as of the time this article was written: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, and Minnesota.

– What states do not allow migraine alert dogs?

The following states do not currently allow migraine alert dogs: Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, and Nevada. It is important to know that these rules are subject to change as new legislation may be passed in the future. For example, Oklahoma will begin allowing migraine alert dog certification this year with restrictions.

– What migraine alert dog laws should migraine sufferers know?

Migraine Alert Dog Law – Public Places: It is also important for migraine sufferers to know that some states have specific laws in place about where an animal can go with their handler, and what types of animals are allowed. For example, California does not allow service dogs into amusement parks or restaurants unless they are trained to perform a task for the migraine sufferer.

Migraine Alert Dog Law – Service Animal: The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) states that any person who has an impairment and meets the definition of disability can go anywhere they would like with their service animal, even if it is not allowed by state law or business policy.

Migraine Alert Dog Jacket

Migraine Alert Dog Jacket

– Do migraine alert dogs need a jacket or vest?

It is vital for migraine sufferers to understand that their migraine alert dog should have a jacket or vest on them at all times. This allows the animal to be easily identified as being attached to someone with migraine disorder, and it also alerts people who may not know about migraine disorders what they are dealing with so they can take precautions if necessary.

Legally, it isn’t necessary, but it sure does make things easier when out and about if the dog is clearly labeled as a service dog.

Migraine Alert Dog Kit

– What is a migraine alert dog kit?

The migraine alert dog kit should include a leash, food and water bowls, ID tag with the contact information for the migraine sufferer as well as their migraine service animal. These kits are easy to keep handy, and the dog should be leashed at all times when out and about anyway.

You can get as crazy as you want but I like this set of Dog Travel Bag for Supplies by Lucky Tail.

Some dog vests have a pocket or clear plastic section on them where you can put important medical papers for any possible first responders, a dose of that migraine medication if you can take something like Imitrex, etc. I have to take liquid morphine so that isn’t really a way to carry my prescription bottle, but it works for those lucky enough to take non-narcotic meds. (I’ve just had horrible reactions to most of them).

Migraine Service Dog Questions

Migraine Service Dog Questions

Q – Can migraine alert dogs be trained for other types of issues?

A – Yes. A migraine sufferer may want to train their migraine alert dog with multiple sensory warning signs that are specific to the type of attack they’re prone to, such as a panic attack or heart arrhythmia. It’s also important to note that there is no “one size fits all” migraine alert dog training.

Q – Does my migraine sufferer need to have a disability?

A – This one is tricky as chronic migraines ARE a disability, just not in the traditional senses. It is important that the migraine sufferer and their migraine alert dog are able to communicate effectively with each other so they can work together as partners.

This will take time for both parties involved, but migraine sufferers will need to learn how to detect the sensory warning signs of an upcoming migraine attack which are often difficult for people who do not suffer from migraines themselves.

Q – Can a migraine alert dog be trained without using food?

A – Yes. There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to migraine alert dog training. Some migraine sufferers may opt-out of using food while others find that it’s the only way they can effectively train their dogs because they are not physically present with them at all times and cannot reward them accordingly for good behavior in a timely manner.

Migraine Service Dog Questions

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4 thoughts on “Migraine Alert Dog: Everything You Need to Know

    • I have an SD too and the number one thing that he does for me is his migraine alerts. I have complex chronic migraines and having him this last year has made my life 100 times better.

      • I am SO glad that he helps you! I totally agree with you – that their early detection and then comfort helps make the situation SO much better. That, and they are such loves 🙂
        Thanks for sharing!

    • Hi,
      I have an Aussie and I have migraines. Since childhood. How can I train my dog?

      • Hi Brooke.
        I will tell you that it takes 2 years to fully train a service dog – between the medical cue-in learning and the socialization to ignore others when out and about. Aussie go one of two ways; either they are GREAT at it because they are so smart, or they suck at it because they are so smart and their protective drive kicks in. They tend to bark/etc with other dogs and unfamiliar people so that has to be broken. My best suggestion? Check in with local dog trainers to see if you can work on their socialization aspect first. If they learn that well, then you can take the next step… but that trainer should be able to help you see if that is a possibility for your pooch or not.
        Good luck!

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