Spring is here and with it comes beautiful weather and signs of growth and new beginnings. In Chinese Medicine, spring is associated with the Liver organ, which is part of the Wood element. This is a great time of the year to take care of and cleanse your pet’s liver.
In Chinese Medical Theory, the Liver stores the Blood and controls the tendons, ligaments and connective tissues. Without proper Blood from the Liver, ligaments and connective tissues are not nourished and can dry out and become prone to injury. I see a lot of cruciate (knee/stifle) ligament injuries in dogs from a lack of Liver Blood. I also see dry skin, dry coat, dry pads, and hair loss.
Foods to nourish the Liver—Beef, beef liver, chicken liver, eggs, carrots, broccoli, beets, spinach, kale, chard, dandelion greens, wheat, millet, brown rice, apples, and fish oil.
Avoid dry food or feeding an all dry food diet. Dry food diets contribute to dryness by their nature of being dry, and also the high carbohydrate, lower protein content doesn’t nourish the blood as much as a higher protein, lower carbohydrate diet. I recommend a homemade diet for dogs of approximately 40-50% protein (muscle and organ meats), 20-25% carbohydrate (whole grains and root vegetables), 25-40% vegetables. Most dry foods contain close to 60% carbohydrate which is way too high for our dogs. Cats have an even higher requirement for protein and need little to no carbohydrates in their diet. See my article “Don’t Feed Dry Food to Cats.”
Other ways to help the Liver at this time is by using a Western herb, milk thistle. Milk thistle can be easily found at your health food store. It not only cleanses the liver of toxins but also heals the liver of damage. I really like Nature’s Answer Alcohol Free Milk Thistle. It works great for small animals and I dose approximately 5 drops per 10-15 lbs of weight twice a day. Most animals tolerate it in their food. For more information on milk thistle and ways to detox the liver, see my article “Toxin Exposure in Pets“.
For further reading on Chinese Medicine in dogs and cats, I recommend: