People With Spinal Cord Injuries Gain Independence With a Service Dog


According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, nearly 300,000 individuals in the US are living with spinal cord injuries (SCI). Spinal cord injuries can be life-altering, making it challenging to regain independence and maintain a good quality of life. 


One solution that’s proven to be incredibly helpful for many individuals with SCI is a Service Dog. These specially trained canines assist people with disabilities and can profoundly impact the lives of those who have experienced spinal cord injuries. Continue reading to learn the many ways Service Dogs help people with SCIs.


About Spinal Cord Injuries

The spinal cord extends from the lower part of the brain through the lower back. Spinal cord injuries are caused when the bundle of cells and nerves responsible for sending and receiving signals from the brain to the rest of the body are damaged. 


Spinal cord injuries can result from direct injury to the spinal cord or damage to the tissue and bones (vertebrae) surrounding the spinal cord. SCIs can result in temporary or permanent changes in sensations, movements, strength, and body functions below the injury site.


Spinal cord injuries can cause a devastating loss of physical independence in the form of paralysis. The symptoms vary depending on how far down the spine the patient was injured and how long ago this happened. 


Mobility Assistance


One of the most significant benefits of Service Dogs for people with SCIs is their ability to assist with mobility. For example, they can assist with tasks like retrieving dropped items, opening doors, and helping with transfers from bed to wheelchair. In addition to reducing the physical strain on the person with an SCI, it also helps to increase their independence and allows them to complete tasks they may have previously been unable to do.


Medical Emergency Alerts


Service Dogs can also be trained to alert for help in a medical emergency, like a fall or seizure. Providing an added layer of safety can bring peace of mind to individuals with SCIs, who may have concerns about being unable to get help in the event of an emergency. 


Emotional Support and Companionship


In addition to physical assistance, Service Dogs can also provide emotional support and companionship to people with spinal cord injuries. The bond between a Service Dog and its owner can be incredibly powerful and provide comfort and support during times of stress or anxiety. That support can be crucial to a person with an SCI who is more likely to experience mental health conditions. 


According to a recent study, people with SCIs have a higher risk of depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues than people without SCIs, which is exacerbated by chronic pain. The study found that 59% of adults with SCIs were diagnosed with mental health conditions, compared to 39% in the general population.


Improved Socialization and Independence


Service Dogs can also help increase socialization and independence for individuals with spinal cord injuries. Service Dogs make it possible for people with SCIs to participate in activities and engage with their community, which can be essential for individuals who have experienced an SCI, as they may feel isolated and lonely as a result of their injury.


How To Obtain a Service Dog 


Educated Canines Assisting with Disabilities (ECAD) breed Service Dogs and train them as puppies. By the time they’re nine months, they know several commands. They then undergo extensive training for 18 to 24 months before they are matched with someone. 

Once a potential match has been identified, each person's final training is individualized. When a client arrives for team training, the dog has had up to 1,500 hours of training and socialization.


Help Us Change the Lives of People Living With SCIs (and Other Disabilities)


As well as being a trusted friend, a Service Dog can expand its partner’s motor abilities, granting them new independence and allowing them to get more out of life. Having a Service Dog by your side means you have more autonomy, can accomplish tasks that may otherwise be impossible, and enjoy a better quality of life. If you or a loved one has an SCI, contact Educated Canines Assisting with Disabilities to learn more or apply for a Service Dog.


Everyone can take part in helping people with disabilities with Service Dogs. Support us with a donation, bequest, planned giving, contributions to our wish list, or create a fundraiser. Your support can change someone’s life.