There are many allergy treatment options that promise quick results … but the side effects can be worse than the allergic condition they are intended to treat. The important thing is to get to the root of the problem. You can do that using Chinese medicine food energetics.
The Cause of Your Dog’s Allergy Symptoms
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) teaches us that allergies, like all medical conditions, are symptoms of an underlying disharmony within the body. To effectively treat the problem, you must first address the disharmony that’s causing the allergy to occur.
What Is An Allergy In Dogs?
An allergy is a hypersensitive reaction to an allergen (from food or an inhalant). These allergens cause the body’s defenses to overreact, which leads to the overheating of your dog’s body. Some of the associated symptoms include itchy and reddened skin, panting, and restlessness. TCM states that the combination of warm (the heat of allergies) and cool (the dog’s body temperature) often creates a condition of “wind” within the body, which is what often causes fiercely itchy skin.
How Chinese Medicine Views Imbalances
Any imbalance within the body can be explained using the model of “yin and yang,” which is at the base of all TCM theory. Yin and yang both exist within the body at all times.
Another way that allergies can affect a dog’s body is through the accumulation of phlegm. All of these symptoms (heat, phlegm, and wind) stem from an imbalance in your dog’s liver, referred to as “Liver Qi stagnation.”
According to TCM, the liver is the organ responsible for the smooth flow of Qi (pronounced “chee”), which is the body’s overall life force.
The liver acts as a “pump” to produce the smooth flow of energy throughout the entire body. When that pump “overheats” as a result of an allergic reaction, the vital fluids within the body evaporate and phlegm starts to accumulate. The accumulation of phlegm causes the dog’s coat to give off a foul odor and become greasy or gooey.
“Yin” represents the concepts of cooling, fluids, quietness, and passive behavior. “Yang” represents the concepts of heat, inflammation, outward energy, and aggressive behavior.
A healthy animal will have a perfect balance between the two forces.
According to TCM, any imbalance of the two is regarded as a disease. This means allergies are commonly seen as an excess of yang (heat) in the body causing the allergic hypersensitivity.
Think about the body of an allergic dog as a boiling pot of water. In order to stop the boiling, you can either turn down the heat or add more water to the pot. TCM uses cooling herbs that bring down the yang (or heat) within the body, plus yin tonifying herbs that increase the fluids of the body overall, bringing the dog’s body back to a balanced state. Herbs used in TCM focus on a holistic way of treating diseases. In the case of canine allergies, they work to bring down the heat within the body, thus reducing inflammation of the skin and accumulation of phlegm.
The herbs address the root cause of the allergy while still relieving the associated symptoms.
Types of Allergies in Dogs
The two most common allergies found among dogs are to foods and inhalants.
Each of these allergy types affects a dog differently, but they can be addressed using the same theories. There are some very simple steps you can take to decrease the severity of your dog’s reaction.
When you suspect your dog has food allergies, the most important step is identifying the food or foods that are causing the reaction. In order to do so, switch your dog to a very bland diet such as rice and boiled hamburger or turkey. After all signs of past reactions have ceased, foods that your dog was eating previously should be slowly reincorporated into the dog’s diet, one by one.
Allergic reactions can take anywhere from a few hours to several days to appear, so if your dog is showing no signs of an allergic reaction after a week of eating a particular food, you can reintroduce an additional food. During this process, if the dog starts to show signs of a reaction (such as diarrhea, vomiting, gurgly stomach, or skin irritations), this reveals the most recently incorporated food as the allergen (or one of the allergens). That food should be permanently eliminated from the dog’s diet.
For an easier way to diagnose your dog’s allergies, allergens can be detected through specific allergy blood testing or saliva tests.
Another type of allergy common among dogs is environmental or inhaled allergens. These allergies occur when dogs breathe in particles such as mold, dust mites, dander, and pollens of grasses and trees. This can result in painful, itchy skin irritations. We could inhale the same pollens and not have any reaction, but allergic dogs have a propensity to develop hypersensitivity causing their whole bodies to become inflamed. This disharmony is a result of too much heat and inflammation.
Western medicine looks solely at physical allergy symptoms such as itching, scratching, and lesions. But TCM also recognizes the less obvious symptoms … such as restlessness, irritability, and panting. All of these signs indicate an allergic reaction, which reveals the underlying issue of Liver Qi stagnation.
In addition to using herbs, Liver Qi stagnation can be treated using traditional Chinese approaches like acupuncture and food therapy.
RELATED: Environmental allergies in dogs …
Food therapy, when combined with other approaches, can be a very effective way to manage allergies in dogs.
Chinese medical theory states that food is like a medicine. The old adage that “you are what you eat” applies here. Food is classified as having various properties such as cooling, warming, etc. Allergic dogs should eat cooling foods such as fish, duck, and rabbit. The cooling foods help to bring down the inflammation throughout the body. Foods like venison and lamb are considered the warmest of proteins and, to an allergic dog, would greatly increase the heat in the body and the allergic reaction.
Incorporating cooling foods into an allergic dog’s diet will help to resolve the underlying disharmony that’s causing the reaction.
Clam, Cod, Crab, Scallop, Whitefish
Tomatoes Yellow, Soy Bean, Bamboo, Broccoli, Celery, Cucumber, Eggplant, Kelp, Lettuce, Mushroom, Seaweed
Apple, Banana, Cranberry, Kiwi, Lemon, Mango, Orange, Pear, Strawberry, Tangerine, Watermelon
Barley, Buckwheat, Job’s Tears, Millet, Mung Bean, Wheat, Wild Rice
Eggs (Duck), Flax Seed Oil, Marjoram, Peppermint, Salt, Sesame Oil, Tofu, Yogurt, Chicken Egg Whites
Generally, neutral foods will tonify Qi and Blood and harmonize Yin and Yang. You can feed them in combination with other types of foods to add variety and choice … or to decrease the harshness of a very cold or very hot diet.
Beef, Beef Liver, Goose, Pork Liver, Pork Kidneys, Pork Feet, Quail, Tripe, Bison
Carp, Catfish, Herring, Mackerel, Salmon, Sardines, Sturgeon, Tuna
Black Soy Beans, Kidney Beans, Beet Root, Broad Beans, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Green beans, Peas, Red Beans, Aduki Beans, String Beans, Pumpkin, Potato, Shitake Mushroom, Yams
Papaya, Pineapple, Pomegranate, Raspberry
White Rice, Brown Rice, Rye, Lentils, Corn
Chiarella, Spirulina, Tofu, Goat’s Milk, Yogurt Cheese, Chicken Eggs, Cow’s Milk, Duck Eggs, Honey
Warming Foods (Avoid These In Dogs With Allergies)
Turkey, Chicken, Chicken Liver, Pheasant, Ham
Sturgeon, Lobster, Mussel, Shrimp, Prawn, Anchovy
Black Bean, Squash, Sweet Potato
Cassia Fruit, Cherry, Date, Peach, Longan
Oats, Sorghum, Sweet Rice
Chestnut, Coconut, Pine Nut, Walnut
Bay Leaves, Brown sugar, Cinnamon, Ginger, Molasses, Goat Milk, Turmeric, Vinegar, Basil, Clove, Dill Seed, Dried Ginger, Fennel Seed, Nutmeg, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme
Hot Foods (Avoid In Dogs With Allergies)
Lamb, Mutton, Sheep, Venison, Kidney
The most important thing to remember about Chinese food energetics is that they don’t just treat the symptoms of allergies. They address the root imbalance to resolve the underlying disharmony. When you resolve that, the allergy symptoms go away.
Huisheng Xie; Aituan Ma. TCVM for the Treatment of Pruritus and Atopy in Dogs. American Journal of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine. Aug2015, Vol. 10 Issue 2, p75-80.