The aim of this study was to compare cardiorespiratory demand during manual wheelchair (MWC) propulsion among MWC users with a spinal cord injury (SCI) in a natural environment with and without the use of a trained mobility assistance dog (MAD).Design
In this quasi-experimental repeated-measures analysis of difference, 13 experienced MWC users with an SCI propelled themselves with and without their trained MAD at a self-selected natural speed along a standardized 630-m course in a natural environment. Participants were equipped with a portable gas analyzer to measure their oxygen consumption, ventilation, tidal volume, respiratory quotient, respiratory rate, and heart rate before, during, and after completing the course. Participants also rated their perceived exertion on a modified Borg scale following each trial.Results
All cardiorespiratory outcome measures decreased significantly with the use of a MAD (P ≤ 0.013; mean difference, −9% to −38%). Furthermore, most participants completed the course significantly faster (P ≤ 0.001; mean difference, −34%), while reporting considerably lower perceived exertion rates (P = 0.007; mean difference, −65%).Conclusions
A trained MAD decreases cardiorespiratory demand and rate of perceived exertion during MWC propulsion on a 630-m course among experienced MWC users with SCI. Trained MADs represent a valuable mobility assistive technology option for MWC users.