A perspective on skin, coat, and the digestive health of a Service Dog

We seem to have this conversation multiple times, and in many different ways. Due to the fact that I am a Service Dog handler (I have a disability, Cerebral Palsy, where a dog can mitigate multiple issues for me) I talk to many other handlers. This conversation is not limited to Service Dogs, or dogs from one part of the country, nor is it breed specific. I’ve spoken about this issue with mechanics, financial advisors, educators, and many others, from the Northeast, to the Mid-west.

The conversation starts because well, a Dane walking next to you is a pretty good conversation starter.  I used to be surprised by how often I talk about bowel movements; not it bothers me in the least but I do wonder what makes people randomly ask me about feces. Maybe that’s why they call impromptu conversations “shooting the schat”? (Yes I changed the term for the purposes of a broader “audience)”.

I was going to put this (brown?) paper together simply so I could get my perspective down in a somewhat concise manner, and be able to share it with those that ask. I have hesitated to share it on the blog because I don’t want any part of what I share to be misinterpreted as being ungrateful, derogatory or any other word or phrase you’d come up with. Then I considered that what I’m talking about has nothing at all to do with the organization that gifted my dog to me, and almost everything to do with the general care of our canine companions. So with that in mind, why shouldn’t I share what I’ve learned so far?

I am going to have to give you site links in this post because the research is not my own. I’ve found I’m better at telling you the story, then making this a copy/paste exercise, so while I set out to do the later I ended up with the former. Maybe the company should give us stock options for the amount of traffic I silently send their way, but in a way I guess this is just a long form Thank You. So let’s get to it shall we?

I already mentioned the first symptom, or maybe it should be number two – Loose stool (sorry had to).

There are many symptoms so I’ll talk about what I’ve personally seen in my Service Dog and in our family pet. (Here is a link to a checklist )

  1. Acne/Hives
  2. Excessive shedding
  3. Skin irritation
  4. Excessive licking
  5. Face rubbing/scratching
  6. Ear scratching/excessive wax/black discharge/inflamed ears
  7. Grass sensitivities
  8. “allergies”
  9. Anxiety
  10. Loose/malformed stool
  11. Reverse sneezing
  12. Eye discharge

Okay, I just gave you twelve symptoms between two dogs! When I have visited Veterinarians, and yes that’s purposely plural. The general answer was that they needed blood tests and long-term food trials where we buy (very) limited ingredient food, then we add and subtract components of various food and do repeated tests to see what may or may not happen. This sounds very logical and scientific. I like both of these things, however I also didn’t forget to ask how much this would cost, and how long it would take to find the answers we seek. The responses I received were, “Typically several thousand dollars, and about a year, sometimes longer” Now I know that being a Dane dad is expensive, and he WAS clearly uncomfortable, true. My mind spun through the process and I asked the next question in my mind. Well, if we’re adding and subtracting ingredients (and medications, according to one guy I distrusted from moment one) It stands that we’ll likely add things that really cause adverse reactions, and some not so much so, right? They answered, Yes, That’s likely. Next question: What happens on a “bad” cycle? Answer: “Your dog could have diarrhea, be lethargic, or … “OK wait – I looked down and said, you do SEE the service vest, right? I can’t have my boy with a rear facing sprinkler, in public or too tired and sick to work while you trial and error your way to a solution, AND I pay you to do it.” Thanks, but No Thanks!

We took to treating the symptoms that were presenting at the time, ear infection, inflamed skin and excessive acne. The symptoms cleared, while we researched. We found this all seems like yeast/ringworm/candida

Here is a link that relates to skin/coat issues:

My overarching recommendations are to

  1. Get away from the big animal food and treat producers (companies are bought and sold constantly and only really care about the bottom line).
  2. Feed grain free
  3. Be mindful of the grains, sugars, starch and proteins in a product, and where they fall on the ingredient list.
    1. Ingredients like potato/sweet potato & rice/brewers rice are negatives


  1. Start including plain yogurt and puree pumpkin in each meal
    1. Plain yogurt promotes good bacteria. Be sure it is plain only! Flavors contain sugars and other “negative” ingredients.
    2. Pumpkin only – NOT pie mix!! Pie mix has spices and other ingredients that can be FATAL!!
    3. If the pup has loose stool the pumpkin helps to firm things up.
    4. Amounts per meal – 2x/day
      1. Pumpkin – about 1/3 of a can for a large breed (if loose stools)
      2. Yogurt – about a single human serving

You can feed less as you see improvement but we find the dogs love it, so we don’t omit entirely.

  1. In general, raw diets sound good but are an added expense and execution pitfall that leads me to reject the practice. (Not to mention my focus is on a dog who goes everywhere with me. How do we feed raw correctly on a road trip in an SUV with a family of four?)
  2. Don’t let other people treat or feed your dog – you must know what and when they eat.

Finding the right food is a combination of price, availability and what your dog will eat. I will share with you what we feed but I’ll share a link of a list we reference.

Casper (and his little sister) eat NUTRISOURCE GRAIN-FREE: Chicken & Pea formula & Seafood Select. Switching proteins is also a good practice (nobody wants ham & cheese every day, for every meal). Their treats are Trudog (freeze-dried raw)

It takes time to see positive results. What you are doing is clearing yeast/candida from your dog’s gut. This means clearing “bad” bacteria and promoting “good”. Symptoms even have a tendency to get worse before they get better. If you’re choosing a course of action stick with it long term.

If you choose nzymes as we did, follow their suggestions to the letter. The process works for us. I’ve even seen a difference when I’ve run out and forgotten to re-order.

There are also times of the year when symptoms are worse, for us in the mid-west, spring is tough and our veterinarian helps us with supplemental products and treatments. This advice is just that, and I’d always suggest consulting your trusted professionals.





International Day of Acceptance

Today, January 20, 2017 is a difficult day in my home. It is a day when we swear in the 45th President of the United States. Today also happens to be the International Day of Acceptance. I am going to ask each of you to read those two opening sentences again, just in case the irony didn’t slap you across the face the first time you made it to the second period.

I did not plan on writing this today, as a matter of fact, I’ve been at a loss for words for quite a while now. The problem is that I woke up and realized what day it is. The day of International acceptance. This is usually a day I celebrate like Halloween, Mardi gras or Christmas. It’s an important day, it’s the day when the rest of the globe catches up to what happens in my home every day. You see we celebrate our uniqueness. A family full of disabilities. A home that opens its doors to the odd, the different, the outcast. We have a tendency to see the beauty in what others prefer to cast into the shadows.

Acceptance is defined as The action or process of being received as adequate or suitable, typically to be admitted into a group. That doesn’t seem so difficult right? The action of being deemed adequate or suitable… it’s really not that high of a bar. Adequate, or being satisfactory or acceptable in quality or quantity. As I look at these words my empathy alarms go off. Granted, I’ll admit I may be higher on that scale than others, based on what I’ve been told, but as we apply these definitions to people it seems a bit queer. It shows me just how much we judge everyone we come in contact with. The fact that there is a day dedicated to reminding us to accept others as they are is frankly off-putting. We have a day to remind each other that we are satisfactory, and the sad point in all this is that we NEED days like this, and we do.

Let’s take just a moment to mourn what else is happening today.  We, as a nation, have decided to elect Donald Trump to our highest elected office in the country. Like it or not he is now the face of our nation. The nation has decided that Donald Trump represents us in international affairs. Because this is MY blog, and for now I CAN say what I want I am going to remind you what is already happening in this country. The government has convinced you that corporations are people. Not only are they people, but they are people who are better than you, more important than you, they have a louder voice than you, they certainly have more money than you. This country has trade, environmental, and health regulations, just to name a few, that are written by these corporations and passed into law by people we elected, people who we allow to personally financially gain from passing a bill with so many pages no real person can make it through to the last page, and even if you read the words, could most understand the language? Already the regulations that accompany the Affordable Care Act are being dismantled. Even if you don’t have coverage directly under the Act it brought sweeping changes to the Insurance industry in the way preexisting conditions are handled, just to name one. I have come to understand at least one facet as to why we’d allow someone like Trump to be elected, over and above the shell game we all witnessed. The people of this country are finally starting to become aware, that we should be treating each other with more compassion. I won’t claim equal, and I won’t trip down the hole of what equal treatment would be now, but maybe you should look into why full on libertarian policies may have a negative impact on a society. I feel that we elected our current President because the populous feels the weight of being undervalued and misrepresented. As I wrote that the corners of my mouth turned up slightly.  Undervalued and misrepresented, maybe like the communities of the disabled, LGBTQ, Blacks, Jews? The list goes on, but you get the point. Many people voted for a candidate of change, except there were far too many that weren’t aware of the shell game, or the sleight of hand they were witnessing. Now, I find myself at a point where I need to be accepting.

I accept that my candidate didn’t make it past the primary. I accept that we have a broken system that is stuck on greed. I accept that we are at a point where we need to make hard choices. What I do not accept is that the fight is over. While I will not make the “Not My President” statement, I will make a statement that I will work to transform this country. I will make my voice heard through the appropriate channels. I will be awake. I will resist what I feel is wrong by contacting my Congressmen, Senators, Mayor, and other elected officials. I will vote.  I will find a way to peacefully resist what is unjust and advocate for what is right, not only for myself but on behalf the disabled community and all others who need their voices heard. We have more access to information now in minutes than generations prior had in weeks. It is our job to understand that we must become filters for that information. It is our job to become self-reliant, self-educated, and empathic enough, not only to understand what is correct but to act appropriately.

Today is a day of acceptance, but remember that we can accept what is and still work toward change. We need to be advocates for each other as people, no matter how different we may be. We need to be advocates for this planet to ensure generations to come have a chance to do better than we did. Love and compassion is the answer. We need to do our best to remember that we are responsible for each other. If we all do the best we can with what we have there will always be more than enough. You are more than enough and you are loved.