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Investigation of the Effects of Service Dogs on Individuals Who Use Wheelchairs

By Amanda Marie Reinsfelder

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With modern medicine and advances in technology, people are living longer and expecting a higher quality of life. Individuals may not be receiving the ideal assistive devices because they are not sure where to obtain the proper equipment, or what is available. An increased flow of informational publications needs to reach the consumers so they are able to make better informed decisions about their quality of life. Addressing the issue of limited resources, this study places a focus on the use of service dogs as a form of assistive technology. The main objective of this study was to collect data from individuals who had wheelchair service dogs and to compare the data to individuals who did not have a wheelchair service dog. Data were collected and analyzed on variables of assistive technology use, disability, human assistance used, depression, pain, fatigue, and activities of daily living. This information was collected as a baseline, after three months and after nine months. Of the 172 individuals who participated from the beginning of this study, 117 successfully completed all three surveys. For the baseline, there were significant relationships between the dog groups and the individuals who used assistive technology (p=0.02); between the dog group and the depression (CES-D) score (p=0.047); and between the dog group and the Pain I (Total Pain Rating Index) of the McGill Pain Questionnaire (p=0.01). Individuals in the control group used less assistive technology, and individuals in the service dog and wait list groups used the most assistive technology devices. Individuals on the wait list had significantly higher CESD scores, and individuals who had recently received a service dog had lower scores than those in the pet and control groups. Overall, depression scores increased for individuals who were on the waiting list to receive a dog, although not to a significant degree. Depression scores increased (insignificantly) at the second visit for service dog owners, but decreased at the third visit. Although not to a significant degree, pain generally decreased for service dog owners. Individuals with service dogs are able to participate in more activities of daily living, although they do still need help.


Mason N McLary

HABRI Central

Date 2006
Pages 92
Publisher University of Pittsburgh
Location of Publication Pittsburgh, PA
Department Health and Rehabilitation Science
Degree Rehabilitation Science and Technology
URL http://d-scholarship.pitt.edu/7914/
Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal-assisted activities
  2. Animal-assisted therapies
  3. Animal roles
  4. Assistive Technology
  5. Depression
  6. Dogs
  7. Fatigue
  8. Health
  9. Mammals
  10. Pain
  11. Quality of life
  12. Service animals
  13. Wheelchairs