Tag Archives: TCM

Which Element is Your Pet?


Last week, I introduced the concept of TCVM constitutional types (see here). Now it’s time to have some fun and see how this concept might apply to your pet.

As I talk about Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, and Wood, I will mention a breed of dog that best exemplifies each element. It is the stereotypical dog of that breed that I’ll refer to. I do not want to leave the impression that every dog of that breed is necessarily associated with that specific element. After all, there is individuality in the animal kingdom. And of course, cats and other pets can also be categorized into one of the elemental categories. So, let’s look at the constitutional types and see where your pet fits.

The Fire constitution is represented by the typical toy poodle. The Fire pet is full of excitement and enthusiasm. When this constitution is balanced, the pet shows love and affection and is good at communicating with her owner. When this type becomes sad, lonely, and lacks interest, it is said to be deficient of Fire. On the other hand, excess Fire is manifested be over-excitement and manic or inappropriate behavior. The organ for this constitution is the heart and Fire pets are prone to cardiac disease.

The Earth constitution is typified by the Labrador Retriever. Earth animals tend to be gentle caregivers who hover, nurture, and protect. When this element is balanced the individual is sympathetic and supportive. If there is a lack of Earth energy then the animal tends toward excessive worry. Too much of the Earth tendency can cause the pet to be clingy and possessive. The digestive system is associated with the Earth element and these pets are prone to obesity, food intolerance, and diarrhea.

The Border Collie is the dog bread that best represents the Metal constitution. This constitutional type is focused on getting things done RIGHT. When in balance, metal animals have an easy rhythm of taking in and letting go. Those with a deficiency of Metal energy may have an inability to form lasting bonds and tend toward isolation. An excess of Metal leads to inflexibility and an extreme need for control. The Metal element is linked to the respiratory system and this constitution tends to have lung problems such as asthma or pneumonia.

The Water constitution is best demonstrated by the St. Bernard. They tend to be “thinkers, not doers.” When the Water animal is in balance, they have a firm will and are not easily discouraged. Too little Water energy can result in an animal that is fearful and easily discouraged. Excessive Water can lead to stubbornness. Physical problems associated with the Water constitution include birth defects, kidney and bladder issues, and deafness.

Finally, the Wood constitution can be seen in the Jack Russell Terrier. These types are always active and doing something. When balanced, the Wood constitution conveys confidence and creativity. With a deficiency of Wood, a pet becomes uncertain, has low self-confidence, and is easily dominated. Too much Wood energy leads to aggressiveness, impatience, anger, and frustration. The Wood element is associated with the liver and this constitutional type is prone to liver disease as well as redness of the eyes and vomiting of bile.

Learning about these five constitutional types can help you better understand your pets and anticipate their needs. You might even learn a little about yourself in the process. Here is a good book about pets on this subject and here’s one on people.

Which element is your pet?

The Five Elements and Your Pet


Holistic veterinarians sometimes speak of the constitution of an animal. This word can refer to the physical character of her body as to strength and health. Another way to think about the constitution of an animal is that it refers to the aggregate of the individual’s physical and psychological characteristics. This is the meaning of the word when used within the realm of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) which is based on Chinese medicine for people.

In TCVM, an animal’s constitutional type reflects the pattern of in-borne tendencies. It is the manifestation of the animal’s genetic strengths and weaknesses. Knowing an animal’s constitution can help you anticipate what types of diseases a pet is prone to as well as behavior and personality traits. If you can see part of the constitutional pattern, you can predict the rest. Interestingly, over the years, holistic veterinarians have found that a pet’s constitutional type often matches that of his owner.

In TCVM there are five constitutional types – Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, and Wood. These five concepts are what the Chinese termed the Five Elements. The Chinese did not think of these as chemical elements as we might think. Rather they are processes that are reflected in all of nature. Every pet and person is a mixture of the five elements but usually one dominates their constitution.

TCVM constitutions provide a new way to think about and relate to your pet. It is fascinating to look at the animals (and people) you know in this way. Next week I will go into detail about each constitution so you can gain new insights into your pets.

Applying TCVM Food Therapy


In my last article I wrote about Chinese food therapy and how foods have innate warming, cooling, or neutral effects on the body. We can use these food properties to balance an animal’s energy system. “Hot” pets (those who seek coolness, overheat easily, are experiencing inflammation, or are in a hot climate) can be fed cooling foods. “Cold” pets (those who seek heat, or are in a cold environment) may benefit from warming foods. Animals whose temperatures are balanced should be fed neutral foods.

Here are some examples of Chinese food therapy temperatures.

Warming foods:  Beef kidney, Chicken, Chicken egg yolk, Chicken liver, Goat milk, Ham, Lamb kidney, Lamb liver, Mutton, Pheasant, Prawn, Shrimp, Venison,  Apricot, Basil, Blackberry, Cherry, Chestnut, Chives, Clove, Coconut, Coriander, Fennel, Ginger, Garlic, Hawthorn, Horseradish, Mustard, Nutmeg, Papaya, Peach, Pepper, Plum, Pumpkin, Quinoa, Raspberry, Squash, Sweet Potato, Sunflower seed, Tangerine, Thyme, Turmeric, Walnut
Cooling foods:  Alligator, Clam or Mussel, Cod, Conch, Crab, Duck, Duck egg, Egg white, Herring, Rabbit, Scallop, Turkey, White fish, Yogurt,  Alfalfa, Apple, Amaranth, Banana, Bitter melon, Blueberry, Broccoli, Celery, Cucumber, Eggplant, Gingko, Kelp or Seaweed, Kiwi fruit, Mango, Mushroom, Orange, Pear, Persimmon, Spinach, Strawberry, Tomato, Watermelon, White radish
Neutral foods:  Beef, Beef liver, Bison, Catfish, Chicken eggs, Flatfish, Goose, Mackerel, Milk (Cows), Pigeon, Pork, Pork kidney, Pork liver, Quail, Salmon, Sardines, Tripe, Trout, Tuna, Wild rabbit, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Chinese cabbage, Date, Figs, Ginkgo, Grape, Lemon, Lotus, Lychee, Pineapple, Potato, Radish, Sweet Potato, Shiitake mushroom, Yam

The Chinese also considered that how a food is prepared affects its temperature. Raw foods are very cooling, foods that is steamed or boiled are more neutral, foods that are grilled baked or fried are warming, canned pet food is hot, and dry pet food is off the scale hot.

If your pet is hot, choose a diet made with cooling foods or feed cooling foods as treats and avoid processed foods. You may also want to add some of these cooling spices to his food – Mint, salt, honey, flax/sesame/soybean oils. If your pet is cold, feed warming foods and avoid totally raw diets. You might also want to try some of these warming spices – Chives, clove, ginger, garlic, horseradish, mustard, nutmeg, pepper, thyme, turmeric, olive oil, rice wine vinegar.

Are you ready to apply TCVM food therapy?