If you’ve been to our office with your pet for an appointment with me, you’ve probably heard at least part of the hot versus cold debate. When thinking about things from a Chinese Medicine perspective, we always consider the “Yin” and “Yang” of the situation. Yin means female, cool, dark, moist, down, slow. Yang means male, hot, light, dry, up, fast. All things in life should have a balance of Yin and Yang. (Yep, you guys need to get in touch with your feminine side!)
Many of the medical problems we see in pets and people are related to an imbalance of Yin and Yang. Think of the diabetic pet or owner who is thirsty all the time, can’t get enough to drink, and has to urinate a lot. They have a deficiency of Yin (not enough moisture!), so they drink to try to make up for it. Think of the dry, scaly, brittle coat – again a deficiency of Yin (not enough moisture; can also be a Blood Deficiency, as blood moisturizes the body). Fatty tumors are more related to a Yang deficiency – too much moisture stuck in one place without enough warming energy to move it around and dissolve it.
How do you decide whether your pet has an excess or deficiency of Yin or Yang? There are lots of clues to help you decide. Look at the color of the tongue. If it is bright red or dark red, there is probably too much heat in the body. If the tongue is pale, swollen, or very wet, there is probably not enough heat in the body. A yellow coating on the tongue indicates fever and heat (look at your tongue the next time you have a fever). A lavender or purplish color to the tongue means there is stagnation of blood flow, indicating pain (think of a bruise – blood pooling in one spot). You may not be able to tell where the pain is in the body, but you will at least know your pet has pain somewhere and needs to be treated. Another clue is where the animal sleeps. An animal that loves to sit in the sun, in front of the heat vent, or curled under blankets is probably cold and has a Yang deficiency. Animals that pant a lot, drink a lot, love to be out in the snow, lie on cold tile floors or in front of the air conditioning vent are too hot (Yang excess or Yin deficiency) and need to be cooled. Animals that are cold tend to be more sluggish, older, fatter, more laid back, and may have moist skin problems. Hot animals tend to be more hyper, have a dry brittle coat, dry nose and foot pads that may be cracked, and may be more outgoing or aggressive or playful.
So how do we treat deficiencies or excesses of Yin and Yang? There are many ways. Medications actually will have a Yin or Yang energy. Herbs and foods can also be used to help correct the imbalances. Acupuncture points can “energize” Yin or Yang. Simple fixes can be tried at home, using the correct food ingredients.
If you have an animal that is too cold (Yin excess or Yang deficiency) you need to feed things that will help to warm the body. Foods in this category include lamb, venison, chicken, oats, pumpkin, chicken and pork liver, and white rice.
If you have an animal that is too warm (Yang excess or Yin deficiency) you need to feed things that will help to cool the body. Foods in this category include ocean fish such as sardines, mackerel, salmon, clams, tuna; duck, goose, beef liver, buffalo, pork, rabbit, apples, bananas, berries, melons, sweet potato, cucumber, romaine lettuce, summer squash, spinach, and brown rice.
Beef, chicken eggs, and beef liver tend to be neutral, so can be fed either way. These foods are good blood tonics for animals with pale tongues or dry coats.
You can choose to make your pet’s food using the ingredients above, or you can add these foods as supplements to the processed meal you feed. Make sure to cut back on the canned or dry food if you are adding calories with the whole foods! If you are not feeding any processed canned or dry food, make sure you add canine minerals to the diet so the calcium and phosphorous levels in the food are balanced. When choosing a canned or dry food for your pet, choose one with ingredients to treat the energetics of the pet. For instance, a hot dry dog would do well on a herring and sweet potato diet. A cold wet dog would benefit from a lamb and rice diet.
One of my favorite summer treats for old hot dogs is watermelon ginger ice cubes. Put watermelon chunks in your blender with some dried ginger sprinkled in. Blend and put in an ice cube tray. Feed the frozen cubes as treats. They will cool your pet and the ginger is a natural anti-inflammatory for arthritis.
Have fun with food. These tricks work for yourself as well!