Question: I understand that service dogs for MS patients help with balance and physical needs but can they sense a pending relapse. I suffer from MS relapses from stress, overexertion and heat. Can a service dog sense the changes in your body that occur when your body has hit that point when you need to stop and rest to avoid a relapse? My relapses cause me debilitating fatigue, muscle stiffness and mental cloudiness.
Service dogs for individuals with physical disabilities like MS can offer enormous benefit. They will pick up whatever you may drop, go fetch what you need. These tasks that they provide keep you safe and help you to conserve energy - this helps prevent you from falling and helps you save those precious bits of energy for when you really need your power. In addition, a service dog over time will be your best friend and will be there for you no matter what. With most young dogs, this takes time. Just like with humans, it takes some time to build a strong and enduring relationship, and it goes without saying that some dogs are more intuitive than others regarding the needs of their recipient.
However, despite these benefits, and I don’t minimize them - these dog are not trained to predict an impending relapse - they will sense if you’re not feeling well, but they have no power to assess your neurological function before you have symptoms. They know when you’re sad, when you’re feeling crappy, when you need them - and they will be right there at your side, looking up into your eyes and snuggling with you. There is nothing better than that for most people.
Ellen Lathi, MD
Director, The MS Center at St. Elizabeth's Hospital and the MS Service Dog Program
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