The Yin & Yang of Pet Food
Preventing pet disease with Traditional Chinese Medicine
Photo Credit: gurinaleksandr/Thinkstock
Traditional Chinese Medicine is a variety of medicinal practices and concepts that are built on a historical tradition going back 2,000 years. In TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) and other Eastern medicinal practices, diet is used in the prevention as well as treatment of diseases and ailments.
Traditional Chinese Medicine and food energy theory
TCM is a very complicated subject. However, there are a few core principles that are easy to learn, and which can be applied to our animal companions. The primary concept of TCM is balance. Food energy theory divides foods into cooling (Yin), warming (Yang) and Neutral.
The Yin Diet
A dog that is hot will typically seek cool places to rest and can tend to have itchy inflamed skin. A hot dog will often be hot to the touch. He/She may pant excessively and will tend to itch more and act restless at bedtime. A dog that is hot may also have red eyes or red skin. These dogs are prone to allergies and feeding a cooling diet can be very beneficial.
Feeding a hot dog hot foods (like lamb or venison, which are considered the hottest proteins) is like throwing kerosene on the fire. Hot dogs should be fed cooling foods to dampen the negative effects of heat on their bodies. Proteins like duck, rabbit, or fish are considered cooling by Chinese theory. Some examples of other cooling foods are apples, bananas, oranges, pears, tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce and mushrooms.
The Yang Diet
In contrast, a dog that has cool tendencies should be fed warming foods. Signs that point to your dog needed a warming diet can include general weakness, fatigue, and exercise intolerance, lack of appetite and shortness of breath. These dogs are your classic couch potatoes and they will tend to seek out warm places. Cool dogs may suffer from joint stiffness and pain, especially in the winter months.
All of these symptoms of coldness can be aided by feeding warming foods like turkey, chicken, squash, sweet potatoes and oats. Similarly, a dog that is affected by arthritis tends to be cold in nature (this is why arthritis gets even worse during the winter months). For this reason, a dog that needs added joint support would benefit most from a warm diet.
The Neutral Diet
Neutral foods like beef and salmon are great for any dog, and can balance the effects of hot or cold foods. Some examples of neutral foods include tuna, milk, cheese, eggs, white or brown rice, potatoes, peas, carrots, or green beans.
How to Identify a Deficiency in an Animal
A Yin deficiency is when an animal is too hot. The animal may suffer from conditions such as excessive panting, as well as dry skin, a dry cough, restlessness and gastric ulcers. Other symptoms include a red, dry tongue.
A Yang deficiency is when an animal has cold ears, nose, back, and limbs. It may arise when the animal has a deficiency of Qi. This includes general weakness, diarrhea and weight loss as well as asthma, urinary or fecal incontinence. Other symptoms include a pale, wet tongue.
A Blood deficiency is another condition that includes dry eyes, dry skin, cracked paws, lack of stamina, restlessness and being easily frightened. Other symptoms include a pale, dry tongue
These Eastern practices are a wonderful way of preventing disease in dogs and cats, but this subject can get very deep and intricate, so it is highly recommended to learn and investigate to fully understand the subject. Read Cheryl Schwartz’s book, Five Paws, Five Directions. It is not only fascinating but highly informative on the subject. Also, for even more information on TCM, read Prince Wen Hue’s Cook, Chinese Dietary Therapy by Bob Flaw and Honora Wolfe.
In 2002, Lucy Postins was trying to find a minimally processed dog food for her beloved dog Mosi, who was suffering from food allergies. She decided to create a dehydrated pet food using real whole foods herself. The food spoke for itself in how good it tasted and the health benefits it yielded – and The Honest Kitchen was born!