Meet the incredible dogs saving the lives of children who suffer from epilepsy

MEET Pepsi – the dog who is a lifesaver to little Izzy Pyne.

The pair share an amazing bond because the springador — or springer spaniel-Labrador cross — can detect when the two-year-old is going to have a potentially fatal epileptic fit.

 Pepsi can alert Izzy's mum before she has a seizure

Peter Powell Limited

Pepsi can alert Izzy’s mum before she has a seizure

Pepsi then alerts Izzy’s mum Heather 20 minutes in advance, giving her time to call for help, put Izzy in a safe space where she won’t hurt herself and prepare medication.

Heather, 25, told Paws & Claws: “If Izzy has a seizure, she’s in real danger. Pepsi can detect a scent 20 minutes before and she knows she’ll get a treat if she lets us know.

“So now she gets excited and jumps around to alert us. She knows to fetch the rescue medication and even turns on the lights so I can be calm, get oxygen ready and focus on Izzy.”

The little girl was born 16 weeks prematurely, in October 2016, weighing just 1.1lb. At six days old, she stopped breathing, her heart stopped and her stomach was perforated.

 Izzy was a premature baby but complications after she was born left her with brain damage and epilepsy

Peter Powell Limited

Izzy was a premature baby but complications after she was born left her with brain damage and epilepsy

She had emergency surgery, spent a lot of her first six months on a ventilator — and had several more operations.

A bleed on her brain resulted in brain damage and epilepsy. She also has other complex needs, meaning she is unable to walk, crawl or talk.

When Heather, a dog trainer from Nottingham, took Izzy home, Pepsi took a close interest, staying by her cot and watching over her. Heather realised she could train the dog to help her.

Pepsi started by taking Izzy’s socks off, removing her blanket if she got hot and picking up toys.

 Heather says Pepsi is always by Izzy's side

Peter Powell Limited

Heather says Pepsi is always by Izzy’s side

Heather said: “From the moment we put Izzy down in her Moses basket, Pepsi was by her side. Whenever we put her on the floor she would lie down next to her and they had a lovely relationship.”

When Izzy’s seizures became more frequent Heather would panic, having to tend to son Ben, now three, and protect her daughter at the same time.

The attacks would come without warning, but soon Heather realised the dog was picking up when one was about to occur.

 Heather relies on Pepsi for help when Izzy has a seizure, she says: 'She knows to fetch the rescue medication and even turns on the lights so I can be calm'

Peter Powell Limited

Heather relies on Pepsi for help when Izzy has a seizure, she says: ‘She knows to fetch the rescue medication and even turns on the lights so I can be calm’

More than 600,000 people in the UK are affected by seizures, which can take place at any time. Trainers believe dogs detect them through a scent or change in behaviour.

Heather said: “Pepsi can’t make Izzy walk or talk but she improves her quality of life. She helps Izzy to sit up, lying across her legs to support her hips and knees.”

“I don’t know what I’d do without Pepsi.”

Because of the huge benefits Pepsi gave to her family, Heather has now set up the not-for-profit Pawsitive Squad (pawsitivesquad.co.uk).

 Pepsi is a vital component in Heather and Izzy's lives, ensuring the little girl's condition is monitored

Peter Powell Limited

Pepsi is a vital component in Heather and Izzy’s lives, ensuring the little girl’s condition is monitored

She partners with schools and disability groups to put on classes where children can enjoy time with dogs.

Heather said: “Not all families can have a pet, so we have volunteers who come along with their therapy dogs to play games and interact with the children so they can feel more included in the community.”

THRONE TO THE WOLVES

WELFARE charity Dogs Trust hopes the return of Game Of Thrones will mean fewer wolf lookalike breeds being given to rescue centres.

Fans fell in love with the TV fantasy drama’s direwolves after the saga began in 2011. But since then the charity has seen a huge rise in the number of similar-looking dogs needing homes.

In the year before series one, just 79 Alaskan malamutes, Siberian huskies and akitas were cared for at Dogs Trust compared with 411 last year.

In comparison, the number of other large breeds given up, such as rottweilers and German shepherds, has fallen by 22 per cent.

Dogs Trust’s Adam Clowes said: “With the final series, we hope we see fewer of them coming to us in future.”

Pet vet

CAVAPOO Molly is 24 weeks old and suffers from an upset stomach.

Salon owner Lynsey Smith, 39, from Southport, Merseyside, said Molly suffers from bloating, diarrhoea and constipation. She is fed raw food and was given a probiotic for seven days – but that did not help.

Sean – head vet at tails.com, who make a unique recipe for every dog – says: “Puppies often have tummy upsets. Being weaned from milk to solid food, going to a new home, having vaccinations and exploring the outside world all mean her immune system and stomach can be delicate.

 Molly has been a little unwell since moving into her new home
Molly has been a little unwell since moving into her new home

“Check she’s up to date with worming. Most puppies arrive with worms and a bloated stomach so need regular treatments from the vet for a few months.

“Raw food can help but doesn’t suit others. There is more bacteria in raw meat, which can be troublesome for a sick puppy compared to a healthy adult. Try a quality dry, cooked puppy food for now, until things settle down.
“If probiotics haven’t worked, bring a stool sample to your vet to test for bacteria or other parasites that are not covered by standard worming treatment.”

RAISE CASH FOR PETS

NATIONAL Pet Month has just turned 30.

It’s a charity that brings together animal welfare groups, professional bodies, pet businesses, schools, youth groups and pet lovers.

It promotes responsible pet ownership through educational campaigns and encourages fundraising for the nation’s needy animals.

To celebrate #NationalPetMonth you can raise money with a 24-hour themed Tweetathon, a pet service at a church, a take-your-animal-to-work day or a themed fancy dress party.

Chairman Michael Bellingham said: “We couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate our 30th than to see pet lovers having fun and raising money for a pet charity.”

Win a day at dogstival

DOGSTIVAL is described as the best day out a pooch could have – and you could take yours along next month, as we have TEN pairs of day tickets to give away.

The family-friendly festival at Pylewell Park, New Forest, Hants, on May 18 and 19 is hosted by TV’s Chris Packham and sponsored by pet insurance comparison website Go Get It.

It will feature a K9 aqua sports pool, a behaviour stage, canine chillout den, live music, artisan food and drink, a vintage fun fair and a dog-friendly beach!

Find out more at dogstival.co.uk. To enter our competition, email [email protected], putting DOGSTIVAL in the subject line. Winners picked at random. T&Cs apply.

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