Healthy Foods for Canine Helpers

What do you feed your service animal? That question is sometimes followed with, can I give your dog some food?

I was on my way to work. My dog guide Frisco had stopped again, but I didn’t know why. A lady stopped me as I was about to cross the Nicollet Mall. Sir, your dog eliminated with a bloody discharge.

I jumped on the next southbound bus and took Frisco to his veterinarian. The diagnosis was that I had a very sick dog. Somebody had fed my dog food, maybe a cookie, that made him deathly ill.

The veterinarian prescribed a weeklong combination of Imodium and antibiotics. Frisco went on a day-long bland diet and then gradually ate his usual food.

How will I give him his pills? Hold the top muzzle with one hand, and pry the lower jaw open with the other hand that held the pill. Then, I would have to place the pill as far into the back part of my dog guide’s jaw as possible. The procedure worked very well and I never had any problem giving my dog guides a pill using that technique. Once the pill was administered, I had to hold the muzzle shut until I could feel him swallow the pill. Another technique was to blow on the nostrils or rub my finger across my dog guide’s lips to stimulate him to lick. He’d have to swallow when he licked. The veterinarian also suggested, that I could put the pills in bread or cheese. That never worked as my dogs ate the bread and cheese and spit out the pills.

The first three days were touch and go. I had to withhold his regular food the first day after the veterinarian visit. The next day, I fed him plain rice. By the third day, I slowly reintroduced Frisco to his regular food.

The veterinarian said Frisco needed fluids but he refused water. To encourage him to drink, I mixed chicken and meat-flavored bullion cubes into his water. It worked. I added flavored water with his rice too.

Frisco made a full recovery and I learned something something new, Frisco liked rice. I also learned he liked fruits and vegetables too. His favorites were baby carrots and chopped apples. All became part of his regular diet.

Frisco lived until he was almost 15 years old.

People I meet ask if they can give my current dog guide Telly some food. I always decline the offer with the explanation of how potentially harmful that could be for my dog digestion.

On occasion, somebody may slip Telly food. If I catch them in the act, they are stopped and given some free education.

Telly is usually in good health. When he has a bad day or two, he is fasted. Starting the next day, his meal is either potatoes or rice. I mix his regular food in the afternoon meal or begin that part on the third day. The veterinarian said potatoes are gentler for dogs’ digestion than rice.

My dog guide eats a dry dog food that contains no animal by-products. I supplement his morning and afternoon meal with potatoes, apples, rice, carrots or an occasional hardboiled egg. Sometimes I’ll combine some or all of these in his food.

Service dogs give unconditionally and keep the handler safe. Keeping my dogs on a high quality diet is one of many ways I show my appreciation to my canine helper.

We’d love to hear your thoughts. What stories do you have about people, other then you, who feed your service animal?

Clarence can be reached at

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