Which Element Is Your Pet?
By Doug Knueven, DVM, CVA, CVC, CVCH
When Edgar Cayce spoke of the constitution of a person he was most commonly referring to the physical character of the person's body as to strength and health. Another way to think about the constitution of a human or animal is that it refers to the aggregate of the individual's physical and psychological characteristics. This is the meaning of the word when used within the realm of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) which is based on Chinese medicine for people.
In TCVM, an animal's constitutional type reflects the pattern of inborn tendencies. It is the manifestation of the animal's genetic strengths and weaknesses. Knowing an animal's constitution can help you anticipate what types of diseases a pet is prone to, as well as behavior and personality traits. If you can see part of the constitutional pattern, you can predict the rest. Interestingly, over the years, holistic veterinarians have found that a pet's constitutional type often matches that of his owner.
The Five Elements or Constitutional Types
In TCVM there are five constitutional types-Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, and Wood. These five concepts are what the Chinese termed the Five Elements. The Chinese did not think of these as chemical elements as we might think. Rather they are processes that are reflected in all of nature. Every pet and person is a mixture of the five elements but usually one dominates their constitution.
As I talk about the constitutional types, I will mention a breed of dog that best exemplifies each element. It is the stereotypical dog of that breed that I'll talk about. I do not want to leave the impression that every dog of that breed is necessarily associated with that specific element. There is individuality even in the animal kingdom. And of course, cats and other pets can also be categorized into one of the elemental categories. So, let's look at the constitutional types and see where your pet fits.
The Fire constitution is represented by the typical Toy Poodle. The Fire pet is full of excitement and enthusiasm. When this constitution is balanced, the pet shows love and affection and is good at communicating with her owner. When this type becomes sad, lonely, and lacks interest, it is said to be deficient of Fire. On the other hand, excess Fire is manifested by over-excitement and manic or inappropriate behavior. The organ for this constitution is the heart and Fire pets are prone to cardiac disease.
The Earth constitution is typified by the Labrador Retriever. Earth animals tend to be gentle caregivers who hover, nurture, and protect. When this element is balanced the individual is sympathetic and supportive. If there is a lack of Earth energy then the animal tends toward excessive worry. Too much of the Earth tendency can cause the pet to be clingy and possessive. The digestive system is associated with the Earth element and these pets are prone to obesity, food intolerance, and diarrhea.
The Border Collie is the dog breed that best represents the Metal constitution. This constitutional type is focused on getting things done right. When in balance, metal animals have an easy rhythm of taking in and letting go. Those with a deficiency of Metal energy may have an inability to form lasting bonds and tend toward isolation. An excess of Metal leads to inflexibility and an extreme need for control. The Metal element is linked to the respiratory system and this constitution tends to have lung problems such as asthma or pneumonia.
The Water constitution is best demonstrated by the St. Bernard. They tend to be "thinkers, not doers." When the Water animal is in balance, they have a firm will and are not easily discouraged. Too little Water energy can result in an animal that is fearful and easily discouraged. Excessive Water can lead to stubbornness. Physical problems associated with the Water constitution include birth defects, kidney and bladder issues, and deafness.
Finally, the Wood constitution can be seen in the Jack Russell Terrier. These types are always active and doing something. When balanced, the Wood constitution conveys confidence and creativity. With a deficiency of Wood, a pet becomes uncertain, has low self-confidence, and is easily dominated. Too much Wood energy leads to aggressiveness, impatience, anger, and frustration. The Wood element is associated with the liver and this constitutional type is prone to liver disease as well as redness of the eyes and vomiting of bile.
Learning about these five constitutional types can help you better understand your pets and anticipate their needs. You might even learn a little about yourself in the process.
Dr. Doug Knueven, DVM, CVA, CVC, CVCH, received his veterinary degree from Ohio State University in 1987. He owns and operates Beaver Animal Clinic in Beaver, PA (near Pittsburgh) where he shares duties with 2 other veterinarians. He has earned certification in veterinary acupuncture, veterinary Chinese herbal medicine and veterinary chiropractic. He also has advanced training in natural nutrition, massage therapy and homeopathy. Dr Doug has been practicing alternative veterinary medicine since 1995. He lectures on the subject at state and national veterinary conferences including the annual AVMA convention and the North American Veterinary Conference which is the largest veterinary conference in the world.
He has written two books on the subject; Standby Me: A Holistic Handbook for Animals, Their People and the Lives They Share Together, and The Holistic Health Guide: Natural Care for the Whole Dog. He also authors the “Holistic Pet Care” column for Venture Inward Magazine, available online to members at EdgarCayce.org/members.