Guide and Service Dogs

Guide Dogs

What are guide dogs?

Guide DogGuide dogs are trained to lead the blind or vision impaired. The dog acts as a pilot to direct its owner in a straight line unless directed to turn, while avoiding obstacles in all directions.

How do I get a guide dog?

Blind Veterans are assessed and trained for orientation and mobility. If a guide dog is preferred, information on how to contact guide dog schools is provided. Partnership with the guide dog is provided through non-VA affiliated guide dog schools.

What benefits does VA provide?

Blind Veterans with working dogs are provided veterinary care and equipment through VA Prosthetics and Sensory Aids. VA does not pay for boarding, grooming, food, or any other routine expense associated with owning a dog.

Service Dogs

What are service dogs?

Service DogA service dog is a dog trained to do specific tasks for a person that he or she cannot do because of a disability. Service dogs can pick things up, guide a person with vision problems, or help someone who falls or loses balance easily. For example, a service dog can help a blind person walk down the street or get dangerous things out of the way when someone is having a seizure.

Protecting someone, giving emotional support, or being a companion do not qualify a dog to be a service animal. To be a service dog, a dog must go through training. Usually the dog is trained to:

  • Do things that are different from natural dog behavior
  • Do things that the handler (dog owner) cannot do because of a disability
  • Learn to work with the new handler in ways that help manage the owner’s disability

Because the handler depends on the service dog’s help, service dogs are allowed to go to most public places the handler goes. This is the case even if it is somewhere pet dogs usually cannot go, like restaurants or on airplanes. But there are a few exceptions. For example, service dogs can be asked to leave if they are not behaving well.

How do I get a service dog?

Each Veteran’s case is reviewed and evaluated by a prescribing clinician for the following:

  • Ability and means, including family or caregiver, to care for the dog currently and in the future
  • Goals that are to accomplished through the use of the dog
  • Goals that are to be accomplished through other assistive technology or therapy

The Veteran will be informed of an approval or disapproval of their service dog request. Veterans approved for service dogs are referred to Assistance Dogs International-accredited agencies. There is no charge for the dog or the associated training.

What benefits does VA provide?

Veterans with working service dogs are provided veterinary care and equipment through VA Prosthetics and Sensory Aids. VA does not pay for boarding, grooming, food, or any other routine expense associated with owning a dog.

Additional Resources

Non-VA Related Resources

*The links above will take you outside of the Department of Veterans Affairs Website. VA does not endorse and is not responsible for the content of the linked websites. The link will open in a new window.

Do You Know The Symptoms of Diabetes in a Dog?

dog_insulinWhat Are the Symptoms of Diabetes in Dogs?

The following symptoms should be investigated as they could be indicators that your dog has diabetes:


Change in appetite
Excessive thirst/increase in water consumption
Weight loss
Increased urination
Unusually sweet-smelling or fruity breath
Urinary tract infections
Cataract formation, blindness
Chronic skin infections

This information is from : WebMD for pets

If you need pet sitting and are worried about leaving your pet because he/she has diabetes, no worries!

We will be glad to administer insulin.

Give us a call for your pet sitting and dog walking needs.

Four Paws Pet Sitting Services  919-388-PAWS (7297)

Positive Reinforcement Training Tips

They don’t call them “man’s best friend” for nothing!  Domestic dogs have for thousands of years lived with humans in various capacities, from aiding in hunting to protecting livestock. In order to perform these functions, dogs learned to communicate with people and perform as their owners wished.

Dogs are highly sensitive and responsive animals. They can tell when their owners are happy, sad, or nervous, and they may express these emotions themselves.

Because dogs do have feelings, and intelligence that may be compared to that of a toddler (some breeds are as smart as a human seven-year-old!), it’s important that you refrain from treating your pet negatively. Continually shouting at a small child may scare him into submission, but it probably won’t make for a happy or healthy young person in the long run, even if he does obey.

Your dog does not understand that you’re angry he got into the garbage bin; for one, dogs get into things because they’re dogs, and for two, his brain just isn’t going to connect your harsh tones and loud movements with all the fun he had with leftovers this afternoon. Just as with small children, dogs need to be coerced into behaving well with smiles and cheer.

Your pet will understand when you’re unhappy with him, but he won’t understand why so well as the fact that you just are. That’s why it’s important to work on refining your dog’s behavior in a different way, with positivity.

Positive reinforcement is one of the best methods of training your dog. It’s easier for your dog to understand what he did right, rather than grasping the concept of some arbitrary human rule he didn’t follow (such as resisting sticking his muzzle into the appealing-smelling trash bin). When you’re happy, your dog is happy as well.

As such, two of the best ways to train your dog are with enthusiasm and with puppy treats. Both of these need to be awarded to your pet immediately after he performs the desirable action, so that he understands and repeats it again.

Because dogs understand human emotions so well, it’s key to praise him when he does something correctly, even if it’s by accident. Use upbeat vocal tones, and repeated phrases like “Good dog!” Respond in this way when your dog completes commands, and pair it with petting and physical affection when you’re really proud.

Treats are a great idea for training. Your pet gets a treat for sitting instead of jumping on visitor, for not barking when the doorbell rings, when he fetches an item, and so on.  As long as they don’t trigger a food allergy, treats are a safe and effective way for modifying behavior and completing training. Be patient at first, since your dog probably won’t understand right away.

It doesn’t take much to make dogs happy–pets and treats, please! Check out the infographic below for more on how to get your pet to please you with positive reinforcement.

Positive Training small

by Amber Kingsley, Guest Author

Caring For Your Best Friend’s Feet

pawsA friend of mine, a veteran of the military, shared this mantra with me, “Take care of your feet, because your feet take you everywhere.” I always remembered that fact and for us humans, it can often be associated with many types of medical issues, particularly those that are connected with a number of conditions like diabetes and circulation problems, since our lower extremities are the furthest from both our hearts and brains.

In another chapter from my personal adventures associated with my beloved canine companions, during the dog days of summer, in the quiet suburb neighborhood where I live, I always walk my dog with bare feet during the hotter months. Although my neighbors tease me about this relentlessly, my mind tells me that, if the sidewalk or asphalt is too hot for MY FEET, it must most certainly torture my dog’s sensitive little paws. Anyone who has ran quickly across a hot beach with no shoes can certainly relate to this circumstance. OUCH!

The same is true for our pets, especially dogs, whose paws propel them everywhere in life. Taking care of these delicate extremities is vitally important for their mobility, health and overall welfare. When they have issues with these tissues, sometimes they can chew, lick and irritate these sensitive areas, which only makes the matter worse. Here’s some ways to watch and protect the paws of our beloved four-legged pets:

Paws Don’t Come With A Preventative Care Manual

Although there’s no such thing as “perfect” when it comes to preventative care, there are some steps that we can take to help our pets with better paw protection:

Trimming their nails is a daunting task at best, but taking some preventative measures when you’re a DYI kind of pet owner is essential. Consider taking some of these steps to prevent excessive bleeding from cutting too close to the quick.

Check your dog’s footsies regularly for signs of irregular abuse, cracking, peeling, redness, swollen areas and other areas of possible irritation and infection. Consult your veterinarian if these problems look serious or you see limping and excessive licking, chewing or favoritism, which can complicate matters.

Some dogs that have anxiety problems, or they are particularly stressed for some
reason, others are aging with arthritis and other muscular conditions can be more prone to issues with their legs and paws. Again, see your veterinarian for solutions and relief that go beyond the “cone of shame.”


In extreme climate conditions, both hot and cold, pet owners should resort to protective devices such as booties, to protect their pets from unnecessary harm from the elements.

Younger dogs that are more fast moving and are therefore particularly vulnerable to paw injury and abuse, especially on rough surfaces. They should be monitored more closely and watched for signs of increased wear-and-tear that can occur with higher incidences with these more active individuals.

There’s another idiom for the care of feet and delicate paws that that goes along with our human endeavors that goes, “Take care of your feet because they’ll carry you for life.” Extend the years you spend with your pet by ensuring their paws, legs, heart and soul, will be with you for life. Both yours and theirs.

Written by Amber Kingsley

Why Cat’s Need Moist Food

A purebred Snowshoe Lynx-Point Siamese kitten eating wet cat food from a saucer in a modern kitchen.

Friskies 3 oz. can for $0.99 with 172 calories; Hills Prescription Diet 5.5 oz. (split can in half for each feeding) 180 calories; Iams chicken 3 oz. 94 calories; Drs. Foster Smith ($30.00) for 24 cans 94 calories & must be ordered by vet or on-line.

For adults:    It is best to feed a more moisture-rich food from a pouch or can. Feed them twice a day but take uneaten their food away after 2 hours so that they don’t graze. Make sure there are NO added preservatives, colors or flavors.

Store brands (3 oz size):

Fancy feast ($0.75) 76 calories; Iams ($1.00) 96 calories; Evo ($3.99) 120 calories; Blue Wilderness ($2.00) 132 calories; Hills Prescription Diet 180 calories

Healthier Foods:

A new product, Nature’s Variety,  is a pre-made Raw food you can order at:

Also check out Wellness food in a pouch, it is grain free and the consistency of gravy $1.59 per 3 oz. pouch

May your cat find what it is craving!!


What is a Pet Train?


Young dog , maltese puppy looking out the car window

To get a dog or cat from it’s current spot to a loving home, volunteers offer to drive part or all of the distance with the animal. My friend just became a part of this amazing puzzle over the weekend!
It started with a sick 5-year old’s announcement that Santa was bringing her a tiny white dog with a big brown spot for Christmas. She fixated on this one thing and even prayed for it at night. Her poor parents tried to convince her that a cuddly, stuffed dog would be a wonderful present but the girl cried out “No! I just know it’s going to be a real dog!”
So, the couple searched every local rescue and pet-agency for a small white dog with a spot. This time of year, there was nothing even close! They searched far and wide, even looking outside the state and region. Finally, they located a small white dog with… one spot! An older woman in New York was moving into an Assisted Living Home and could not bring her dog.
The couple struggled with how to bring the dog over 509 miles to their home in Raleigh, North Carolina by Christmas. They posted a “Can you help us friends?” request on Facebook and it was re-posted several hundred times!
The wonder of Social Media is that all the puzzle pieces came together, and here is how the pet train finally happened:
A co-worker’s cousin was going from New York to Washington DC and volunteered to take the pet this first leg of an 8-hour journey. A friend’s mother could take the pet from DC to her holiday destination of Richmond, VA. From there, a vet was heading to Wake Forrest to be with her family and volunteered to meet the Coleman’s at a Walmart parking lot with their new dog.  Everyone was thanked on-line for their role in the pet-transport train and the little girl will get her wish-come-true on Christmas morning. For now, the little white dog with a spot is staying with a friend and has no idea how many people volunteered to make it’s future brighter.
There are also organizations to help with transporting pets, both on a volunteer basis: and for a fee:;;

Beware, Holiday Tips for Pets

Christmas Dog And Kittens.Last year, my best friend had to spend Christmas Eve in a crowded pet hospital while her pet was sliced open and a long ribbon removed from its stomach. The wait for services was long, and her vet warned her that from Thanksgiving through the New Year, the number of  Emergency room visits for pets triples.

With all the chaos of visiting family, friends, ribbons and boxes – holidays hold many wonders and temptations for family pets! Below is a top-ten list of things to watch-out for when going about your festivities:

1. Do not tie anything around your pets neck that can choke and strangle them, try a pet-tested vest or fancy collar instead
2. Ribbons/Tinsel can cause intestinal damage as it twists and bunches inside your pet’s intestines
3. Plastic bags can suffocate a pet quickly, make sure to put them in recycling
4. Pine trees can and will topple over as your house-cat/panther attempts to climb them. Be sure to anchor them well, if possible place in a corner for more support
5. Rich dairy is not good for pets  avoid the old wive’s tales of cats & cream
6. Poultry bones & fat trimmings may cause intestinal issues or pancreatitis
7. Don’t let Fido drink liqueur – their livers are not equipped to process it and a “little” bit to us is a whopping big drink to them
8. Keep glass ornaments and breakable figurines up high, out of sight and reach
9. Keep these plants up high away from pets:
a. Mistletoe berries are highly toxic, can cause stomach upset and has the potential to cause fatal heart problems
b. Holly can cause vomiting, diarrhea, nausea and lethargy
c. Poinsettias are known to cause diarrhea and vomiting
10. Electrical cords should be hidden under rugs or tape, or sprayed with Bitter Apple to deter chewing/playing with them

Pumpkin For Your Pets!

Welsh Corgi Pembroke dog and pumpkinWhat’s round and orange (not a basketball) and grows on a vine? Pumpkin! A great treat for your pet to eat, it aides digestion and constipation. Vets recommend a Tablespoon for small pets, 2 T for larger pets. Pumpkin is a good fource for vitamin A and C, beta- carotene, fiber and moisture in pumpkin. Pumpkin seeds are also a good treat for larger dogs and contain 30% protein and 40-50 % oil.

Below is an easy 3-Ingredient recipe:

Peanut Butter Pumpkin Homemade Dog Treats

1/2 cup Natural Peanut Butter
1 cup 100% Pure Pumpkin Puree, canned
1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour (I used Whole Grain Brown Rice Flour)


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, stir together peanut butter and pumpkin. Stir in the flour 1/4 cup at a time just until dough is no longer sticky.

3. Roll the dough out between two sheets of parchment paper to 1/4? thick. Use a cookie cutter to cut out the dough, then place on the prepared pan.

4. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 8-10 minutes. Let cool completely. Store in an airtight container or freeze for up to 3 months.

Top Kid-Friendly Dog Breeds

Hoping to get a new family-friendly dog breed? Jordan Walker, content curator of Coops and Cages, will help you narrow down your options and select the perfect dog breed that would be right for your kids.
cute dogThere are a lot of things that need to be considered prior to getting a new pet. . The price of a pet is not just the main concern for families with kids; the dog’s appearance and temperament must also be considered. If you’re looking for kid-friendly breeds, you should focus on calmer, playful, and active breeds.
Since there are plenty of dog breeds to choose from, selecting a child-friendly breed can be quite tricky. To help you make up your mind, here are the top 5 child-friendly dog breeds to choose from.

Picture1This is the largest among the  dog breeds list, which has a life span of 10 to13 years. If you’re looking for a dog breed that’s reliable, friendly, and smart, then you can always count on the Golden Retriever as it possesses such qualities. They are also patient, so rest assured they can get along well with the kids. And because it enjoys playing, it can match your child’s level of activeness.

Picture1The Labrador Retriever or Lab is one of the medium-sized dog breeds, which are considered as kid-friendly. They are known to be naturally good-tempered and can keep up with children’s liveliness. It is protective, playful, and loving – all the qualities you’re searching for in a child-friendly breed. You can ensure that your child will always feel safe, and look forward to his playtime with your Lab. It is not only sweet, but is intelligent as well.

Picture2Younger children sometimes have the tendency to fear larger dog breeds that is why some families opt to get gentle smaller breeds. Among these breeds would be the Beagle, which is known to be the ideal pet breed for families with kids. They are bursting with energy for play, and are very friendly, so they easily get along with children. They are basically childproof and energetic. You may even expect them to show signs of exhaustion after the kids tire out.

Picture3German Shepherd dogs are among the large dog breeds that are intelligent and agile. They are obviously outgoing, kind, and gentle, which are among the qualities that make a dog child-friendly. These qualities also make them ideal companions, guardians, and watchdogs.

Picture4The Newfoundland or Newfie is among the large breeds that don’t intimidate the kids because they are usually very sweet. They are even dubbed as “Nature’s Nannies” because of their inherent love or children. They are also smart, and are always enthusiastic about bonding and enjoying with humans.

When it comes to choosing a pet for the kids, the children’s safety should always be a priority. Therefore, you need to choose dog breeds that are trainable and gentle – the kind of breed that would make you feel comfortable and at ease, even when your pet is out of its portable dog playpen, playing comfortably with younger children.

Image Source: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]

Picture1Author: Jordan Walker

Jordan likes to write many pet-related blogs, and is also the lead content curator for Coops and Cages. His passion for animals is only matched by his love for ‘attempting’ to play the guitar. Catch him on Google+ or Twitter: @CoopsAndCages.


What to Do During Stormy Weather

Dog Looking On Overflowing
The Hurricane rains have made feral cats miserable! Stray dogs tremble through the storms, unable to find a dry place to rest their heads. Where can animals shelter during severe weather? The answers are surprising: under your porch, car, or inside the storage/wood shed. Sometimes they squeeze beneath the cover of your patio grill, boat or hot tub. They might shelter there for several days. When they finally emerge, their hunger drives them to raid garbage bins, gardens and nearby restaurants. If your own pet runs off during a storm, they are probably not far away, simply hiding out somewhere that makes them feel “safe”.

To prepare for a storm, make sure to shop for your pet when you make your Emergency Run: food, litter, medication and a jug of water should hold them over. Have a plan if you are in an evacuation area for your pet: don’t ever leave them behind! If you don’t have a pet-friendly hotel nearby, make sure to have a family member or friend on stand-by to take your pet. Never let a pet loose outside, walk your dog on a leash to use the bathroom in case there are dangerous power-lines or trees down.

For older pets, puppies/kittens and those that have storm anxiety:
1. Consider letting them sleep near you during a storm or putting them in their crate with a blanket over it
2. Set up a box with bedding inside, or open your closet so they can hide inside (this may help them feel more secure).
3. Create white noise: soothing music or leaving a TV on can help drown out storm sounds
4. Check with your veterinarian about whether your pet would benefit from a prescription for an anti-anxiety medication.
5. If the weather is particularly stressing your pet, smaller animals can be swaddled in a towel or utilize the snug-fitting jackets available at pet stores

For pets of all ages, remember, they need extra attention and cuddling during severe weather and storms!