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  • Writer's pictureSleepy Dog Veterinary

Food As Medicine

Jenny Liu, DVM


The warm weather is upon us and so begins allergy season for both

human and beast.  Medically speaking, from both Western and Eastern

perspectives, the allergy symptoms means the body is out of balance.  For

animals that have allergies the most common manifestation is skin and/or ear

disease vs. humans whom commonly have “hay fever” signs of runny nose,

congestion, itchy eyes etc.  In Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine

(TCVM) this is the manifestation of excess Heat and the generation of

“Wind” which causes itching.  In Western medicine, the interpretation is an

overreaction of the immune system causing inflammation, histamine release

leading to redness, itching & swelling.  The scratching or irritation breaks

the normal skin barrier which then allows secondary infection by the

bacteria and yeast.

In Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM), food is

considered one component of medicine.  Food items are viewed to have

certain thermal and other characteristics that can help the body get back to or

maintain balance. Food is a component of therapy that can be done at

home.  TCVM usually recommends foods that have “Cooling” energy to

help quell all the Heat generated from the inflammation.


So what are foods with cooling energy?

Below is a list one can consider adding to or changing the current diet from:

Proteins Carbohydrates Vegetables/Fruit

Turkey, Duck, Rabbit,

White fish, Liver,

Gizzard, small amounts

of sardines

Barley, Oats, Rice,

Millet, Quinoa

Sweet potato, Tofu,

Corn, Carrots, dark

leafy greens, Broccoli,

radish, daikon radish,

green beans, asparagus,

zucchini, cucumber,

summer/winter squash,

beets, Watermelon,

apples, pear, banana,

berries, Seaweed

It’s good to rotate through the various proteins, carbohydrates

and vegetables if possible. Also cooking the foods will help digestion

and appeal for some animals (especially older pets). For example, the

family Labradors, are the typical “hoovers,” but even they will drop raw

spinach or greens to the floor. However, if you offer them steamed or

cooked spinach in their food they gobble it up with no problem. Even if

your pet does not suffer from allergies they will likely still enjoy these

foods. If you decide to go completely homemade for your pet, then

consultation with a veterinary nutritionist is advised so that nutritional

deficiencies can be avoided


If your pet has allergies and is on a lamb, venison or chicken based

diet, TCVM usually recommends changing away from this.  Theses proteins

are considered Warming or Hot energetically and usually further aggravate

skin conditions.  If your pet is on dry food, it is also recommended that they

change (gradually to can food or fresh foods).  Dry food takes a lot of energy

for the body to break down and also generates Heat with digestion, which

further contributes to allergies.

The caveat to all this is if your pet has true allergy to certain

proteins or other food items then adjustments need to be made. Skin

diseases are challenging to treat and a more in depth approach is

usually needed. In TCVM, food is considered a foundation in treating

skin disease, so it is an essential part of treatment and it tastes good too.

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