Food therapy for dogs is the science of tailoring diet to an individual’s unique needs. What we feed our pets is important, especially because we often feed them the same thing every day. Food therapy is all about making smart dietary choices and utilizing food not just as nourishment but also as medicine to prevent or treat disease. Food therapy falls under the umbrella of Chinese Medicine.
When it comes to Chinese Medicine, there are four branches.
- Acupuncture (what most people commonly think of when they think of Chinese Medicine)
- Chinese Herbal Therapy
- Tui-na (Chinese medical massage)
- Food Therapy
All types of Chinese medicine can be utilized separately or together to maximize effectiveness. But we’re going to dive into Food Therapy.
How does it work?
Therapeutic food choices are made specifically on an individual basis depending on how the patient presents themselves (meaning their symptoms), their age, genetic predispositions, geographical location/season, and current disharmony or disease processes.
I select food ingredients to maximize a patient’s wellbeing based on their tastes and their thermal energetic properties or temperatures. Temperature doesn’t correlate to the temperature the ingredient was prepared at or will be served at but instead what it does to the body by generating or decreasing heat when ingested.
Why is this better than going with a healthy dog food brand?
Utilizing food therapy under the guidance of a veterinarian who specializes in Chinese Veterinary Food Therapy can help ensure that your dog’s diet meets their specific needs. There is not one size fits all when it comes to diet and nutrition (just like humans), therefore tailoring a meal plan to your dog’s unique requirements is ideal and better than just choosing a “healthy dog food” arbitrarily.
No two dog’s needs are exactly the same. For example, two dogs can have the same western diagnosis of degenerative joint disease. One may benefit and show better mobility from a warming diet (ie: chicken based) while another may be better off having a cooler diet (ie: fish based).
What are the common questions you get about food therapy?
Dog parents/clients are often concerned that starting a food therapeutic diet means they are going to have to cook all their dog’s meals from scratch. That isn’t the case! While some dog parents/clients do elect to home cook diets (I’m happy to work with them to make sure all macro and micronutrient needs are met) most elect to enjoy the convenience of commercially available dog food. When dog parents/clients select going the commercial route, my job is to help them understand why certain foods are better for their dog helping them make more informed choices for their dogs. Food therapy can also include utilizing fruits and vegetables as “treats”. There are great medicinal benefits to these ‘treats’. It doesn’t have to be used only to treat chronic conditions. For example, pumpkin is a gastrointestinal wonder food and can be used in cases of constipation or diarrhea but doesn’t necessarily have to be given every day.
What is the most shocking result you’ve seen for a dog?
It always amazes my dog parents/clients how quickly dietary changes can make such a big difference! (Think about it—a weekend of partying and eating greasy foods and late night pizza can quickly make you feel like crap come Monday…)
Recently I treated a seven month old puppy that had been suffering from ear infections her whole life. Changing her diet completely cleared her ears up without needing further medication in less than a week! Now she can go back to being a cute puppy and stop scratching her ears!
If I’m interested in meeting with you to discuss food therapy with my dog, what are the next steps?
I am available for in person and/or telemedicine appointments to address how your dog can benefit from Chinese medicine including food therapy. To learn more and discuss how I can potentially be of help to your dog, don’t hesitate to reach out!