As a veterinarian, science is one of my most useful tools in helping care for and treat pets, both my patients’ pets and my own. But as a scientist, I also have to acknowledge that science doesn’t have all the answers. It offers many answers, and those answers are good ones, but any scientist worth the title can tell you that there is more that we don’t understand about biology, biochemistry, and medicine, than we have learned about those subjects through science.
I was just a young student in veterinary school when my own childhood dog, a sweet rescue mutt, fell sick. Over the course of a few weeks, his appetite decreased until he was barely eating, and he seemed to have no energy at all. After a variety of tests and treatments, my veterinarian was still stumped, and even my colleagues and professors couldn’t come up with any suggestions that helped. My dog was slowly dying, and despite all the scientific resources at my disposal, no one seemed to know why - it was a devastating position for a young veterinarian to find themselves in.
It was only after, in desperation, I tried consulting a Chinese herbalist, that my poor pup’s health turned around. After a lengthy physical examination, the herbalist suggested a prescription of simple natural foods and herbs, like lamb and ginger. I was skeptical, but to my surprise, after a couple of short weeks on this home-cooked diet, my beloved dog was practically his old self again.
This experience taught me two valuable lessons: Nutrition is one of the single most important factors in pet health; and just because science hasn’t yet figured out how to explain why something works, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work.
That is the reason that in my veterinary practice, I often blend solutions based on Chinese medicine and other holistic care practices with traditional western medical care. And time after time, my patients see huge improvements that they just don’t achieve through contemporary medicine alone.
One common recommendation I make involves the use of heating or cooling foods. In traditional Chinese medicine, life energy maintains a natural balance between yin (cold) and yang (hot). When this energy is out of balance, it can manifest in a variety of health problems – and quite often, this is due to an imbalanced diet.
According to TCM practitioners, a dog with cold energy will often be physically cold to the touch. You’ll often find them seeking out warm patches of sun, a spot near the fireplace or heater, or extra snuggles to balance out that internal chilliness. They will suffer from problems like stiffness, lethargy, and incontinence issues. If your dog is displaying these characteristics, feeding a warming diet may help reduce these symptoms.
Conversely, a dog with hot energy will often feel overheated. These dogs avoid warmth, preferring to lay down on a cold floor or spot in the shade, and will often pant to dispel excess body heat. Health problems associated with excess hot energy are inflammation, allergies, restlessness, and anxiety. A cooling diet may be an effective solution for a dog which is suffering from these types of problems.
While all foods have a heating, cooling, or neutral effect, since dogs eat such a meat-rich diet, usually just selecting a food with the right protein source can balance out your dog’s own natural energy. Here’s a list of some of the more common heating and cooling proteins I recommend:
While many dogs can benefit from a heating or cooling diet, I most often recommend this for dogs suffering from allergy problems, which often have their root in diet already. Many, many dogs I’ve treated for allergies and hot spots have seen great improvements after switching to a simple diet which primarily uses duck, rabbit, pollock, and/or whitefish as its protein source. And don’t forget the treats, too!
In fact, because so many treats contain chicken or other warming proteins, that’s one of the reasons that, when I helped Canine Sciences create their Nutrient Heaven freeze-dried treats, we selected duck as the sole meat source. Duck, which is the primary ingredient and makes up about 90% of each Nutrient Heaven treat, is a classic cooling protein that is rich in essential nutrients and rarely triggers dog allergies.
Wishing you and your dog the best of health,
Dr. Edward Tuk
Our Nutrient Heaven premium freeze-dried treats are an excellent complement to a cooling diet used to holistically address problems like allergies or inflammation. Click on one of the products below to learn more!