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How can service dogs help Parkinson's?

Sunday July 28, 2013

Service dogs are specialty trained to help and protect people with vision, hearing, physical and emotional challenges. Some of the earliest and well-known use of service dogs is the use of guide dogs for blind or visually challenged persons. The majority of people with PD use a Mobility Assistance Dog.

Sometimes a special harness is worn by a Mobility Assistance Dog made for pulling objects, such as wheelchairs.

Service dogs can help a person with Parkinson's disease in many ways. Here are just a few of the ways:

  • Help with physical tasks around the house such as turning on light switches, opening and closing doors, picking up objects.
  • Assist with walking by helping with balance, act as a support or help a person get up.
  • Hold a person up if they are dizzy.
  • Overcome freezing of gait. This can be done by clearing the way in crowded areas, by using gentle pressure on a person's leg or leading a person away from a hectic and stressful area that can exacerbate freezing.
  • Exert a calming effect at times of stress and anxiety

Remember these are service dogs and not pets nor a guard dog. They are wonderful and amazing animals that can help you live better. Contact the following sources for more information:

Assistance Dogs International http://www.assistancedogsinternational.org/. This site offers information on service dogs with FAQ.

Paws with a cause. https://www.pawswithacause.org/what-we-do/service-dogs. This site offers general information.

Nationwide Assistance Dog Group and Training Listing. http://landofpuregold.com/service-groups.htm. This site lists training and service dog programs by state.

Please tell us how your service dog helps you or share your experience in obtaining one by replying to this post.

Monique L. Giroux, MDMonique L. Giroux, MD
Medical Director, Northwest Parkinson's Foundation

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