• Sleepy Dog Veterinary

Food and the Five Elements Constitutions

Jenny Liu, DVM, CVA, MSTCVM


The Five Element theory (Wu Xing) is the cosmologic philosophy developed in ancient China based on observations of the natural world. The five elements recognized under this principle incorporate the inter-relationship of Fire, Earth, Metal, Water and Wood. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), these five elements serve as one of the foundational principles used to describe the relationship between the patient and the natural world on multiple levels. The elements have a specific order of arrangement and have particular properties and mutual relationships. Each of the Five Elements have associated attributes, which can be utilized medicinally but also on a more global level, predict possible individual tendencies.


In Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM), the Five Element is a tool used to understand the patient’s personality type and possible disease tendencies. Each individual has properties of all five elements but one or more of the elements within an individual tend to predominate. This is what contributes to the uniqueness of each individual.


Below is a chart with the Five Elements and their individual personality traits. Which one (or combination) sounds like your pet? It is not uncommon for pets to show “different sides” of themselves in different settings-just like people.



Once you can identify which element your pet falls under you can then better understand the need of your pets. For example, Fire and Wood Constitution animals would not be content just staying home all the time whereas Earth and Water Constitutions would be just fine. That does not mean the latter two constitutions should not have regular exercise - being cooped up all the time can be detrimental for mental and physical health long term. They just would not necessarily be the best personality type if you want a “running partner” type of pet. Each of the Five Elements are also associated energetically with an internal organ system.




To better support the individual constitutions and their associated energetic organ systems there are foods that harmonize and support the functions of the associated organs. Below is another chart that shows foods that can help support the various constitutions. If your pet has a combination of dominating elements then you can choose from each of the associated lists.



This is a very limited list and will vary based on the unique metabolisms of the various species. For example, cats are obligate carnivores so their food recommendations will differ from that of a dog (omnivores) or a horse (herbivores). When there is imbalance or illness, food therapy will differ from the above based on whatever the determined needs are.

Now that you have a better understanding of your pet’s Constitution type you can make better decisions on harmonizing life for your pet!


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