Confused about Chinese Medicine Food Therapy? Want to feed the best to your dogs?

I just discovered a wonderfully easy to use website with charts for the different food groups for different dog types.  As you know, for thousands of years Chinese practitioners have used food as medicinal therapy and for preventative care. General nutrition is improved by feeding foods with neutral properties, then foods  with specific medical indications are added to give balance.

Some symptoms clearly call for specific foods. Some animals have a mixture of symptoms that makes it more difficult to assess the food needs. Herbsmith, a very reliable company, has some great charts that help you choose different  foods for specific symptoms.

Warming, Cooling, Neutral foods refers to the effect on the body, not the temperature of the foods. For instance, a panting, red- skinned, itchy dog may need cooling and drying meats. Raw chicken increases dampness and cooked chicken increases the heat, so chicken should be avoided. If the dog was dry and hot the raw chicken may be effective.

A related issue is not addressed in their charts – raw versus cooked meats.  Their charts assume you have been trained as to how cooking different ways changes the quality of the meats.

Older animals may do better with their meats cooked. While I, and many holistic veterinarians, prefer a raw meat diet and feel it is best for all problems, many feel that animals do better with freshly sourced cooked food. I am now noticing how well animal with more compromised intestines actually do on raw versus cooked foods, since some say cooked food is easier to digest.  Also, from the Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) perspective, raw food is considered cooling and most elderly animals need warming up. Stay posted for more reports.

Even without more specific knowledge you can use these charts to experiment with different fresh foods (hopefully locally sourced) for your pets.

There is a list to help dogs with “Stinky greasy dog coat, ‘Dog smell’, goopy eyes, ear discharges, hot spots, gooey cough”.


If your dog is “seeking cool places, panting, thirst, red eyes, panting at night, dry skin, dry cough and restlessness”, he may need cooling foods (one chart) and/or Yin tonics, so even with no more training you could try to add those meats, fish (raw or cooked) and other foods that are on both charts (lots of overlap) to the diet for a month and see what changes.

Animals with “general weakness, fatigue, exercise intolerance, poor appetite, chronic diarrhea, loss of body weight, muscle atrophy, shortness of breath, asthma and/or urinary or fecal incontinence” would need warming Qi tonic foods.

Similar are those with “heat seeking behaviors like staying in front of fires or under bedcovers, having coldness to ears, nose, back and limbs” and need Yang Tonic (hot) foods.

A “history of blood loss/anemia, pale white gums, dry flaky dandruff coat, dry cracked paw pads, lack of stamina” need blood tonic foods.

Often dogs (because of commercial diets full of “sugar, yeast, wheat, saturated fats, roasted peanuts, dairy products, bread, pork, bananas, and concentrated juices”) with “stiffness (worse in damp weather), obesity, weepy lesions without heat, and loose stools” need dampness draining foods.

These charts also include ones on foods to avoid, basic food pyramid and more.

On their “foods to avoid” chart, I agree with avoiding chocolate, cherry, apricot pits, raw yeast dough & alcohol (no nutritional value), avocado peels (I add pits to that and the flesh is great), onions and scallions and macadamia nuts (in large amounts), grapes or raisins if your dogs have not been eating them for years already. Though I have not explored these, I can agree with Herbsmith until I have more information – plum, persimmons, mustard seed and leaf.

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