Feed Bites

Fueling a Service Animal Is Key to Their Success

Written by: Lacie Dotterweich   |   October 14, 2022

Pet Food, Equine, Animal nutrition

Anyone with a lazy cat or dog will know what I’m talking about. You come home from work, tired after a long day, and your pet has been snoozing all day. “What a rough life,” you might say. Or, “Where’s the rent? Get a job!” All in good humor, of course. In fairness, a lot of animals have jobs and serve important purposes (although, they still may not cover the rent or treats).

When you think of “animals with jobs,” I imagine service dogs with their fluorescent vests immediately come to mind. Service dogs assist more than 80 million U.S. owners who are hearing, vision or mobility impaired, suffer diabetes, stress disorders, severe allergies, seizures and more. Dogs possess an amazing scope of abilities that humans do not; they can be trained to smell compounds released from someone’s body when blood sugar is high or low and sense medical crises before they occur.

I believe we are only now scraping the surface of what dogs have the potential to do. And feeding them the right diet is essential to their success.

A recent study titled, “Nutrition for working and service dogs,” states:

“Conformation, genetics, and behavioral drive are the major determinants of success in canine athletes, although controllable variables, such as training and nutrition, play an important role. …

Endurance dogs (hunting and patrol dogs working more than 1.5–2 hours a day) require higher-fat diets to fuel mitochondrial biogenesis and to enhance oxidative phosphorylation capacity.”

Dogs are also valuable members in police forces, the military, search and rescue crews, and on farms for livestock herding. And we cannot forget the beagles, which help the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol keep African swine fever out of the United States.

While service dogs helping those with disabilities are certainly the most common, there are many different animals with various jobs. Did you know that military dolphins are trained to detect underwater mines? In the United States, this training is carried out by the U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program, which also uses sea lions, according to Brittanica.

Horses are another common working animal. One of my favorite sights are the police horses that patrol the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Police horses are incredibly useful in controlling crowds. According to an article from The Horse:

“Horses are seven times more effective in crowd management than policemen on foot, so they usually get called in when people are getting rowdy.”

Their great stature can evoke a sense of “undisputable authority,” allowing the riders to see high above crowds and traffic.

“That size must be coupled with physical robustness capable of dealing with significant musculoskeletal stress over the years. … They need a solid and sustainable musculoskeletal system that’s resistant to the repetitive shock and often quick starts and stops.”

A nutritious diet certainly helps maintain their shape!

Larger horses aren’t the only ones earning their keep. Miniature service horses are becoming more common, thanks to their longer life-spans, manageable size, lack of allergens and docile manner. U.S. Service Animals says,

“Because they are at the hip height and have a strong, well-built body, service horses are an ideal size for someone who is struggling with their mobility and often loses their balance.”

It is safe to say that animals are extremely valued members of our society, even if they do only provide comfort to most of us (or pest control, as is the case with my cats). And if anyone has any tips for convincing my husband that I should have a mini service horse, please let me know.

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