Saturday, May 8, 2010

Healing Your Dog With Food: More To Food Than Nutritional Value?

Nutritional value of food is of course very important. According to the American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) there are 36 nutrients that are essential for dogs.

Essential nutrient is a nutrient that is needed for your dog's body to function properly, but cannot be synthesized by his body at all or not in a sufficient amount. Such nutrients have to be provided through your dog's diet. These include proteins, fat, vitamins and minerals.

Each of them have an important function, and a deficiency in any of these nutrients can lead to serious health issues. That's why a complete and balanced diet is vital to maintain your dog's health.

Western medicine also recognizes some healing qualities of nutrients, such as antioxidant or anti-inflammatory properties. For most part though, it seems that the western approach is mainly about elimination: low-fat, low-protein, low-carb ...

Is there more to food than its nutritional value?

Well, according to Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine there is.

This concept is not exclusive to TCVM. The first time I was introduced to the idea was when I was working on Eat • Taste • Heal: An Ayurvedic Guidebook and Cookbook for Modern Living.

Ayurveda originated in India and it also made its way to other parts of the world. While there are differences between TCVM and Ayurveda systems, they seem to share some similar principles and ideas. So maybe they are onto something.

Healing your dog with food?

In TCVM, food therapy is often used along with herbal therapy and acupuncture, but is some cases it can be sufficient on its own.

Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine recognizes four properties of food: flavor, temperature, direction and affinity to a particular organ systems.

What's in a flavor?

TCVM identifies five flavors: sweet, sour, pungent, salty and bitter. Foods with different flavors have different benefits for your dog's body. Ayurveda recognizes six flavors and links them with similar properties.

Did you ever try Swedish Bitters? Bitter foods and herbs aid digestion and metabolism, and have cleansing and anti-inflammatory properties. Do you drink lemon tea when you have a sore throat? Sour foods and herbs cleanse tissues of mucus. Seems like even our grandma's had some idea how this works! The flavor of a herb or food is like a nature's label telling you what function it might serve.

Hot or cold?

In Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine some conditions characterized by excess heat and some are cold conditions. Naturally, you fight cold with something warm, and fight heat with something cool. In TCVM, besides flavor, each food has either cooling, warming, hot or neutral thermal property. A dog with cold condition will benefit from warming foods, such as chicken, lamb or turkey, while cooling foods, such as duck, will help balance hot conditions.


It is not possible, nor it was my intention, to explain the entire theory behind TCVM food therapy here. The purpose of this article is to give you a peek so that you might get the idea that there is more than one way of looking at things. Prescription drugs are the easy solution, but not necessarily the best one for your dog. Keep your mind and eyes open and see if your dog could benefit from some of the alternative approaches.

If you want to learn about the Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine in detail, check out the Four Paws, Five Directions: A Guide to Chinese Medicine for Cats and Dogs by Cheryl Schwartz, DVM.

The Chi Institute of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine

Related articles:
When Modern Medicine Doesn't Have The Answer: TCVM
Four Paws, Five Directions: The Theory Behind The Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine
What To Expect During A Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine Exam
Acupuncture In Not Voodoo


  1. Hey! Found you through blog hop. This is a great blog full of information! Glad I found it!

  2. Hi, thank you for visiting and reading! I hope you'll find some helpful information here!

  3. Stopping by to say hello from Pet Blogger Hop! I am so excited to meet new Pet Bloggers thank you for linking up.

    Two Little Cavaliers,
    Davinia & Indiana

  4. Hi Davinia & Indiana woof!
    Nice to meet you and nice having you read our blog! Hope to share many useful woofs!

  5. another alternative therapy that works well with animals is bioresonance - i'm using it on one dog for her allergies/food intolerances/skin problems, and another for his post-op healing for torn ACL

  6. Nice article...Another alternative is Ayurveda for Dogs. Curry n Pepper creates dog food to balance a pets dosha. My dogs have been eating this food for about two years now and they are thriving on it. It helped one of my dog with gastric trouble and the other one with his allergies. I have a Kapha and Vata pet. The food is made with organic ingredients and does not contain Wheat, Corn, Soy, Gluten, any added salt/sugar, artificial color/flavors or preservatives. It is good stuff worth the effort of having your pet transition to this new diet.