Understanding the Five Energies of TCVM…Part 1… The Elements


Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine is based on a core belief in balance. TCVM practitioners believe that everything in the universe, including the body, has two opposite aspects called Yin and Yang. This balance has everything to do with overall health. As the Huang Di Nei Jing says, “No disease occurs if Yin and Yang maintain a relative balance. Disease occurs when there is loss of the balance between Yin and Yang.”

Could health really be this simple? 

The answer is yes, and this “ancient” philosophy is something our grandparents and great-grandparents embraced and attempted to pass on as well. “Everything in moderation,” they would say.

But, let’s dig in a bit deeper. In TCVM, the ancient Chinese divided the world into 5 different categories. These five categories have direct and indirect effects on each other, and each of these categories is present not only in the world around us, but show up representatively in our body as well. Each category is representative of a season of the year, an organ system within the body and a constitution/personality of the pet. The five categories are referred to as the Five Elements.

Here is a summary of each of the five elements as well as what it may mean for your dog’s health. Try to figure out which element your dogs personality fits…..




After a long cold winter, the green leaves begin to grow on the trees. This is why the Wood element is associated with the spring. As you may remember, in the spring it tends to be windy. Wood is also associated with Wind.


Wood is also associated with the color Green. BODY SYSTEM

Green just like the color of the fluid in the gall bladder, bile. The Wood element is associated with the Liver. The Liver’s job, in TCVM, is to store blood, maintain a smooth flow of Qi, and nourish the tendons and ligaments. The Liver opens to the eyes.

Due to the Livers functions, when the Liver (Wood element) is unbalanced we are faced with tendon/ligament problems (ie. Cruciate tears), liver problems (ie. Hepatitis), red eyes, irritability or angers easily (due to the obstruction to the smooth flow of Qi through the Liver), seizures (ie. From internal Wind originating from the Liver), Ear problems (the Liver GB meridian wraps around the ears), nail, foot pad and feet problems as the Liver controls the feet (ie. The trees are rooted in the ground) and anal sac issues (the Liver meridian also runs around the genitals and anus).


If a pet has the following constitutional/personality traits it would be said to have a Wood constitution and would be predisposed the above mentioned diseases from imbalance. Here are the traits: decisive, competitive, assertive, confident, dominant, aggressive, strong, fearless, impulsive, hasty, athletic stamina, alpha animal, pioneer spirit. These pets we would call “The General”.




As we know the sun feels hottest in the summer. This is why the Fire element is associated with summer and Heat. COLOR

Fire is associated with the color red. BODY SYSTEM

Red like the color of blood within the Heart. The Fire element is associated with the Heart. The Heart dominates the blood vessels, houses the Shen (Spirit), controls sweating and opens to the tongue.

When unbalanced these pets are prone to the following disorders: Any behavioral problems, separation anxiety, restlessness, hyperactivity, mental disturbances, manic, phobias, scared without reason, insomnia, not sleeping well, excessive dreaming, heart problems and tongue ulcerations.


The balanced pet with the following personality traits is said to be of Fire constitution: lively, playful, communicative, friendly, affectionate, loves to be petted, center of the party, sensitive, normal mental activity. These are referred to as the Emperor.




In late summer and early fall, the earth provides us with the crops that are ready for harvest. These crops (ie. Rice and wheat) were central to the diet and economy of ancient China.


The Earth element is the center element and is associated with the color yellow. BODY SYSTEM

The Earth element is associated with the Spleen. In TCVM the Spleen is loosely associated with the western functions of the pancreas and stomach / intestines. The Spleen governs the transformation of nutrients and the transportation of the nutrients to the rest of the body, controls blood, dominates the muscles and the limbs and opens to the mouth and lips.

When unbalanced will we see a loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, colic (abdominal pain), gum and/or lip disease, muscle atrophy, obesity, over eating and excessive worrying.


The balanced pet with an Earth constitution will be friendly, relaxed, laid back, loyal, round and large, slow and consistent, serene and balanced, will have normal bowel activity, good appetite, an easy-keeper. These are referred to as “The Mother”.




In the late autumn, the ancient Chinese people would make and/or repair metal tools such as weapons to defend themselves with or items like plows to help with farming.


The Metal element is associated with the color white. BODY SYSTEM

The Metal element is associated with the Lung. The Lung governs the Qi and respiration, requlates water passage, controls the surface of the body (skin) and opens to the nose.

When unbalanced we may see nasal discharge or congestion, sinus problems, coughing, asthma, difficulty breathing, upper air way or lung infections, constant recurrence of colds, a weak voice, dry hair coat, excessive sadness and grief.


The balanced pet with a Metal constitution will love order, obey the rules, and appear  aloof,  quiet,  and  independent. These dogs have a symmetrical body, a disciplined attitude and a good hair coat. These are referred to as “The Organizer”.





The winters are cold and known for a lot of ice and snow. During the winter the water freezes, the night time gets longer and the ancient Chinese people sought out shelter in dark caves.


The Water element is associated with winter and represented by dark colors like black. BODY SYSTEMS

The Water element is associated with the Kidney. The kidney stores Jing (vital essence), governs water, controls the reception of Qi, dominates the bones, opens to the ears and controls the two doors (anus and bladder). When unbalanced we may see arthritis, disc disease (back problems), urinary problems, kidney problems, hind end weakness, they may be withdrawn, poor growth, deafness, bad teeth, reproductive problems and premature aging.


The balanced pet with a Water constitution may be careful, timid, shy, fearful, self contained, may hide and runs away, meditative, have a long life span, strong teeth and bones. They are referred to as “The Observer”.

When the five elements in the body are in balance, the body is healthy.

One category may support an adjacent category and it may also control yet another. For example, the Fire element supports the Earth element but the water element controls the fire Element.

This provides a checks and balances to provide balance in the universe and within the body. Any weakness or excess in any element can produce clinical effects on the others. Hence why we treat the body as a whole (Holistic).

So….. which element or blend of elements does your dog mostly fit?

“It matters not whether medicine is old or new, so long as it brings about a cure. It matters not whether theories are Eastern or Western, so long as they prove to be true” 

Please stay tuned for next weeks blog….. Understanding the Five Energies of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine…Part 2… A Chinese Pattern


Michel Selmer, DVM, MS, CTCVMP – “The Caring Vet”

Michel Selmer

Dr. Michel Selmer is an Integrative Veterinarian and one of a handful of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine Practitioners in the world that holds a Masters Degree. Dr. Michel Selmer attended Long Island University and graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology. Read More...
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