Traditional Chinese Medicine and Diet

Most of us are more concerned than most about what we feed our dogs.  We do our research, talk to our peers and generally try to learn as much as we can so that we can feed them even more appropriately.  Many have even expanded their research and their feeding techniques to encompass the art of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and the diet recommendations contained therein.

TCM encompasses not only the use of diet to keep our dogs healthy, but also the traditional Chinese art of acupuncture, and the use of Chinese herbs in healing.  Diet tends to be the one place where discussion of Chinese

If your dog is tied up in knots and anxious does it mean he has a hot nature?

If your dog is tied up in knots and anxious does it mean he has a hot nature?

medicine continually crops up.

TCM divides things into two basic categories, loosely known as Yin (cool) and Yang (warm).  This separation is applied to both the animal itself as well as the food that the animal eats.  Different characteristics are applied to each and in turn, these characteristics determine what foods should be fed.

When discussing canines, TCM asserts that most are either a ‘hot dog’ or a ‘cold dog’.  According to Chinese theory, the ‘Hot’ variety of dog will often exhibit certain signs.  They will seek out cool places, be hot to the touch, may pant at inappropriate times, have red skin or eyes and be somewhat restless in nature – nervous and ‘on edge’.  They may be far less active while it is hot outdoors but will continue to maintain a healthy thirst regardless of that inactivity.  Dogs that suffer from various allergies as well as dogs who tend to have a relatively high arousal level, may often exhibit these signs of a ‘hot’ dog.  The ‘Cold’ variety of dogs show opposite signs – they seek out warm places to sleep, are somewhat slow moving and appear to be, more often than not, calm, cool and collected.  Blanket lovers who adore snuggling, these dogs can sometimes exhibit a lack of appetite and definitely do NOT prefer playing in the snow.

When looking at TCM and diet, these ideas of warming and cooling are attributed to the very foods that your dog eats – whether its kibbled or fresh real food.  Warming foods are those which you would feed to a dog who exhibits signs of coldness.  You avoid feeding a hot dog too many warming foods so as not to exacerbate the already existing heat.  Some warming foods include chicken, lamb, venison, ginger, peach, red/chili peppers, pumpkin/squash, oats, white rice and quinoa.  A dog with allergies is considered a hot dog – if following the tenets of diet put forth by TCM, one would avoid feeding such a dog these warming foods and instead concentrate on a diet of cooling and neutral ones instead.

Cooling foods are those which you would feed to a hotter dog in order to help balance him out.  These foods include items like duck, egg, rabbit, turkey, broccoli, cucumber, spinach, strawberry, brown rice, fish oil, honey and barley, among others.  These foods are to be avoided for dogs who are already cool in nature, or at the least, fed in conjunction with a diet high in warming foods.

Neutral foods are those which TCM considers somewhat inert insofar as there ability to cool or warm.  Neutral foods include beef, bison, tripe, pork, most fish, carrots, cabbage, potato, beans and peas as well as others.  These foods are versatile in that they are appropriate for any dog of any nature and can work to balance out the warming and cooling foods that are given.

Keep your dog active and happy by investigating alternative medicine rather than just accepting the first thing you are told

Keep your dog active and happy by investigating alternative medicine rather than just accepting the first thing you are told

TCM relies on a whole body approach to health.  It looks particularly to ensuring a strong immune system so that a dog can enjoy complete health no matter what comes his way.  By the use of diet, Chinese herbs and medical treatments such as acupuncture, TCM has become a popular way to view whole body health in our pets and even ourselves.  There are several volumes that are most often recommended for people that are interested in educating themselves on TCM and its uses including but not limited to:

  • Four Paws Five Directions, Cheryl Schwartz, DVM
  • The Well Connected Dog: A Guide to Canine Acupressure, Amy Snow & Nancy Zidonis
  • Complementary and Alternative Veterinary Medicine Principles and Practice, Allen M. Schoen DVM and Susan G. Wynn DVM, Editors.

If your dog has issues that are seemingly not being touched by conventional western medicine, branch out, be proactive and see if the Far East has anything to offer you and your ailing pup.