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The Daily Vet by petMD

The Daily Vet is a blog featuring veterinarians from all walks of life. Every week they will tackle entertaining, interesting, and sometimes difficult topics in the world of animal medicine – all in the hopes that their unique insights and personal experiences will help you to understand your pets.

As Easter approaches, our thoughts turn to baby chicks, egg hunts, and chocolate rabbits, all of which create happy thoughts for people and potential health hazardous for our pets.

Baby chicks can spread bacterial organisms (Salmonella, etc.) to both people and pets.

Taking your dog along for Easter egg hunts may lead to dietary indiscretion and subsequent gastrointestinal illness (vomit, diarrhea, etc.).

Chocolate rabbits nestled into festive baskets create an edible target for curious canine mouths and result in toxicity from cocoa based stimulants.

As these holiday hazards should be familiar to familiar to pet owners, I am taking a different approach with this Easter 2012 themed Daily Vet article. Besides the well publicized potential for Easter associated toxins, what other implications do chicken, eggs, and rabbits have on your pet’s health? Many - from my perspective as a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM).

In Chinese medicine, food has inherent warming (Yang), cooling (Yin), or neutral properties. This applies to proteins, grains, vegetables, and fruit. Additionally, the format in which food comes from — whether nature or prepared by humans — has similar energetic implications.

Yang energy is external, drying, heating, and energizing. Conversely, Yin is internal, moistening, cooling, and calming. When Yang and Yin energy are balanced, organ systems function in harmony and disease states are minimized. Unfortunately, human and animal bodies are continually influenced by environmental exposure, infection, toxins, age, and other imbalance-causing factors.

There are diseases and clinical signs associated with Yang and Yin energies.  Excessive Yang (or deficient Yin) can cause:

  • Inflammation (allergic skin and inflammatory bowel disease [IBD], arthritis, etc.)
  • Behavior (anxiety, aggression, etc.) and neurologic (seizures) problems
  • Glandular abnormalities (Cushing’s disease, feline hyperthyroidism)
  • Immune mediated disease (Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia [IMHA] and Thrombocytopenia [IMTP])
  • Cancer

Excessive Yin (or deficient Yang) contributes to:

  • Obesity
  • Degenerative conditions (age related changes, degenerative joint disease, etc.)
  • Lethargy
  • Glandular abnormalities (canine hypothyroidism, diabetes mellitus, etc.)
  • Behavior problems (canine cognitive dysfunction)

If your pet suffers from one of these conditions, food energy could be a contributing cause and an important remedy. The best means of integrating these principles into your pet’s treatment protocol is under the guidance of a TCVM trained veterinarian. I follow the Chi Institute’s general guidelines for Chinese medicine energy associated with specific foods.

Yang Foods

  • Protein: chicken (including egg yolk), goat, lamb, lobster, prawn/shrimp, venison
  • Grains and beans: oats, white rice
  • Vegetables and fruit: apricot, blackberry, cherry, citrus, coconut, garlic ginger, papaya, peach, plum, pumpkin, squash

 

Yin Foods

 

  • Protein: rabbit, chicken, egg white, cod, clam/mussel, duck (including egg), frog, goose, oyster, scallop, turkey, yogurt
  • Grains and beans: barley, brown rice, buckwheat, millet, mung bean, wheat bran/flower, tofu
  • Vegetables and fruit: banana, berries, broccoli, cranberry, eggplant, mango, mushroom, melon, pear, persimmon, seaweed/kelp, spinach, strawberry, watermelon

Neutral Foods

 

  • Protein: carp, catfish, beef (including liver), pork (including kidney/liver), salmon, sardines
  • Grain: corn, black-, kidney-, green-, red-, soy-bean
  • Vegetables and fruit: apple, asparagus, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, date, pineapple, white potato

Dry food is inherently Yang, as the majority of the moisture inherent in naturally occurring sources has been cooked out.  In comparison to moist and whole foods sources, dry format has a dehydrating effect, requiring the body to secrete liquids (gastric acid, bile, pancreatic enzymes) or drink water to facilitate digestion.

In returning to our Easter theme, feeding chicken to your pet has a warming effect. This consequence is increased when chicken meal or dry format is consumed (both of which I do not recommend). Over time, the heating properties of chicken can add needed heat to the body or exacerbate Yang associated illness. This is a contributing reason to why so many pets are "allergic to chicken."

Eggs are more complicated, as the yolk is considered warming while the white is cooling.  Additionally, the type of fowl that produced the egg also contributes to its Yang or Yin properties.

Rabbit has cooling energetic properties that calm the fire of excess associated with skin allergies, IBD, IMHA, and cancer.  Rabbit is considered a novel protein source and an option for the management of hot, itchy, skin and digestive problems.

My dog, Cardiff, has suffered three bouts of IMHA in his six years of life and I use food energy to control his disease. During his IMHA episodes, rabbit, duck, and goose are some of the Yin food sources I used to treat his illness. Now that Cardiff is non-hemolytic, he eats a combination of human grade "dog food" containing turkey (cooling) and beef (neutral).

This Easter, and on an ongoing basis, consider the food energy implications of the chicken, egg, rabbit, and other foods consumed by your pet.

Dr. Patrick Mahaney

Image: Yin and Yang dogs by vagawi / via Flickr

Comments  4

Leave Comment
  • Need Yin foods?
    04/02/2012 11:30pm

    Based on your post, my dog has excessive Yang. He has allergies and IBD. It sounds like I should add some Yin foods to his diet. I have a Fuyu persimmon tree and he absolutely loves the fruit. Unfortunately, there's only fruit for a month or two per year. He loves the green fruit as well as the ripe fruit. Does that matter, or are both Yin?

    Would adding some Yin as a supplement work? Or, should the whole diet be Yin?

  • 04/04/2012 03:06am

    KLD,
    Thank you for your question and comments.
    If he has IBD and allergies, definitely go down the route of feeding a human grade, whole food, moist (NOT commercially available dry) food. Dry foods just add heat to the body.
    What are you currently feeding?
    You can reduce Yang food sources and add more Yin or neutral options.
    I'm unsure as to if Green or Orange/Yellow Persimmons are more Yin/Yang. It's too bad they are so seasonal, as they are great snack options for dogs. Cardiff loves them when they are in season in SoCal.
    Dr PM

  • Perfect Combination?
    04/03/2012 07:43am

    "Eggs are more complicated, as the yolk is considered warming while the white is cooling. Additionally, the type of fowl that produced the egg also contributes to its Yang or Yin properties."

    This would imply that eggs are an almost perfect combination food.

    Or do we need to know who laid the egg?

  • 04/04/2012 03:09am

    TOB,
    Yes, the egg does seem to be the perfect food, as we can rely on its Yang or Yin properties.
    The white has no fat/cholesterol and is packed with protein. It is considered Yin.
    The yolk is chock full of fat/cholesterol, but still has beneficial nutritional value. It is considered Yang.
    If I have a client interested in feeding eggs to their dog, then we traditionally go down the route of antibiotic free/organic, free range eggs (if possible). Alternatively, egg white can be purchased by the carton.
    I don't end up "prescribing" a particular type of egg for my patients. Yet, this is LA and you never know what unique circumstance practice may bring.
    Dr PM

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