We all know that what we eat affects our bodies, our health and how we feel. This is true for our pets too. Veterinary food therapy is a holistic, integrative veterinary medical therapy that recognizes that fact and promotes food as a treatment tool and as a disease preventative for our pets. It is one area of practice of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM), along with the areas of herbal medicine, acupuncture and tui-na. The extraordinary properties and effects of each of the foods used in veterinary food therapy have been determined, and used therapeutically, by Chinese medical practitioners over thousands of years. Veterinary food therapy is a convenient, flexible, low-stress and rewarding way for you to participate in your pet’s nourishment and treatment.
For a healthy pet, a veterinary food therapist can do a pet diet consultation with you and use their knowledge of food properties to help you choose which foods or what kinds of diets would generally be best for your pet, based on their species, breed, age, behavior and food preferences. For a pet with medical or behavioral issues, a veterinary food therapist can recommend therapeutic foods that can specifically balance and reinforce the body systems that are unbalanced or diseased. These foods can be used as a complementary therapy to the traditional veterinary medical treatments that your regular veterinarian provides, or they can be used therapeutically on their own.
Because it can take time to have an effect, veterinary food therapy is most used as a therapy for chronic (long-standing) conditions, not acute (sudden) conditions. It is especially effective for skin, gastrointestinal, hormonal, heart, kidney, liver, joint and cancer conditions. It can help with behavioral issues too.
If you prefer to cook for your pet, veterinary food therapy may involve adding or subtracting a few common foods in your pet’s current diet, or it may involve formulating a whole new, nutritionally-balanced diet. Either way you will be provided with a list of foods that you can easily prepare for your pet in your home. If you prefer to use commercial pet foods, the therapy may involve changing from your pet’s current food to another one that contains more desirable ingredients, or it may involve adding another pet food to your current one. The therapy is tailored to what’s best for your pet, you and your lifestyle.
As in traditional veterinary medicine, a veterinary food therapist starts the process by examining your pet, talking to you about their medical and behavioral history, and looking at the results of any laboratory or imaging tests that have already been performed. However, a veterinary food therapist, as with other TCVM practitioners, also performs a Chinese veterinary exam that especially focuses on the pet’s tongue and their pulses. And, unlike a traditional veterinarian, they formulate a TCVM diagnosis that describes patterns of imbalances, excesses and/or deficiencies in one or more of five body systems (also called the Five Elements) – heart (fire), spleen/stomach (earth), lung (metal), kidney (water) and liver (wood). They then use this diagnosis to choose the specific therapeutic foods that will help correct these patterns. The veterinary food therapist will go over these foods and their recommendations with you so that together you can determine how to proceed with the therapy. If you want to try veterinary food therapy for your pet, click here to schedule a consultation!