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Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine theory revolves around the 5 elements known as Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, and Wood. Each element is associated with specific organ systems and a specific personality or “constitution”. Each constitution can be predisposed to medical issues, based on the organs associated with the personality.

Each element contributes to the next element in a clockwise circle, as the parent feeding the child. If the child is too bold and drains the parent, it can cause a deficiency for the parent. The element on the opposite side, going clockwise, is the grandchild. The element controls the grandchild, but the grandchild can be too difficult, and insult the grandparent.

FIRE

People and animals with Fire personalities are the life of the party. They are friendly, affectionate, and outgoing, love to be petted or touched, and want to be the center of attention. The noise associated with Fire is joyful, excited, loud, and constant. These dogs bark for attention. They are easily excited. These people are prone to exaggeration, making a big deal out of every little thing. They tend to be red heads!

The fire element rules the Heart and Small Intestine Meridians. Common medical problems associated with Fire personality include:

  • insomnia
  • separation anxiety
  • restlessness
  • rapid heart rate
  • heart problems
  • and problems with excess heat

These animals generally need to be fed cooling diets, as too much heat in the diet can contribute to their heat issues. Avoid chicken and lamb, tending toward duck, rabbit, or pork as the protein source.

The element on the opposite side of the cycle, Water, controls Fire. If there is too much Fire, it will drain the Water, leading to problems with dryness and Kidney/Bladder deficiencies.

Fire generates Earth, controls Metal, is generated by Wood, and insults Water.

EARTH

People and animals with Earth personalities are relaxed and laid back, moving slowly. They are very loyal, serene, and balanced. They are the caretakers, acting very motherly. They tend to be round and large. The color associated with Earth is yellow, so a large, laid back yellow Labrador fits this element perfectly.

The earth element is ruled by the Spleen and Stomach, so these animals and people are prone to:

  • digestive issues
  • diarrhea
  • constipation
  • vomiting
  • and loss of appetite

Because the digestive tract opens at the mouth, these animals are also prone to gum disease. These people and animals are worriers and tend to overeat and become obese. They love sweets. They may need foods that are a little warm and partially digested (think crock pot for these kids). They do not like food to be cold and damp. Dairy is their enemy. Green tripe is an excellent food for Earth pets.

The controlling element for Earth is Wood. Trees grow; their roots hold the ground in place. If the Earth drains the Wood excessively, Liver and Gall Bladder problems will occur. Earth elements are responsible for producing strong muscles. Muscle weakness will occur with deficient earth.

Earth generates Metal, controls Water, is generated by Fire, and insults Wood.

METAL

Metal personalities love to obey the rules and have everything in order. They are very aloof and disciplined and want everyone to follow the rules. They generally have a good hair coat that is meticulously groomed. Many gray cats are Metal personalities.

The Metal element is ruled by the Lungs and Large Intestine. The lungs need moisture to survive. Problems with deficiencies of the Lung will produce:

  • asthma
  • dry skin
  • sinus problems
  • breathing disorders
  • nasal problems
  • and coughing.

Older animals that have moisture deficiencies (Yin deficiency) will be prone to constipation and megacolon. Diets high in moisture are important for these pets.

The controlling element for Metal is Fire (high heat bends metal). If Fire over-controls Metal, it will dry the lungs and large intestine, leading to asthma, coughing, and constipation.

Metal generates Water, controls Wood, is generated by Earth, and insults Fire.

 

WATER

Pets and people with Water personalities are fearful. These dogs and cats will hide when strangers approach. They watch everything and have no confidence. They are nervous and will run away. These are commonly the fear biters. The Water element is ruled by the Bladder and Kidneys; these animals will commonly urinate when approached. People with Water personalities are meditative and self contained; they cry easily.

Problems associated with deficiencies in the Kidney and Bladder elements include:

  • hind end weakness (Kidneys rule bones)
  • arthritis
  • bone and back issues
  • urinary problems
  • growth problems
  • deafness
  • and reproductive problems.

These animals are commonly white or gray. High moisture diets are important, along with diets that are easily digested. Kidneys are responsible for life, so feeding “baby” foods like nuts (a couple of ground almonds), seeds (ground flax or sesame), and eggs will help maintain good kidney function.

The controlling element for Water is Earth. (Earthen dams control Water flow.)

Water generates Wood, controls Fire, is generated by Metal, and insults Earth.

WOOD

Wood personalities are in charge. They are confident and dominant and they like to give orders. They are active, energetic, and athletic; these make great agility or search and rescue pets. They are also impatient and can bite with little provocation. They tend to be irritable and crabby and will be the alpha in the pack.

The Wood element is ruled by the Liver and Gall Bladder. Liver supplies the nourishment to produce strong ligaments, so deficient Liver Blood will commonly lead to:

  • ACL tears and strains
  • liver disease
  • nail and foot pad problems
  • and anal sac disease

The Liver is connected to the outside world through the eyes, so red eyes are a common sign of stagnation or excess in the Liver. Ear problems are commonly seen secondary to heat in the Gall Bladder meridian, as this meridian circles the ears. Moist, yeasty, black skin infections in the ears, around the eyes, in the arm pits and groin, and under the tail are associated with heat in the Gall Bladder meridian. Cooling, draining diets including turnips, radishes, and celery can help with this condition.

Green is the color of Wood. These animals need to have the Liver supported with abundant dark leafy greens and Blood tonics like eggs and sardines. Not only does the Blood have to be produced, it also has to be moved. So add in some good Qi tonics like pumpkin, turmeric, and ginger to move the blood. Liver Qi stagnation leads to frustration and insomnia between 1 and 3 a.m. Because Wood is the element of Spring, wind is associated with this element. Seizures are considered a form of wind. Seizures are commonly seen secondary to Liver Qi stagnation or Liver Blood deficiency.

Wood is controlled by Metal. It generates Fire, controls Earth, is generated by Water, and insults Metal.