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Heavenly Hound

If your dog gets sick easily, more often than you’d like, or more often than seems normal, his problem might be an under-active immune system.
Written by Jean Scherwenka
Ancient Chinese secret.
Priestly the Rottweiler was 6-1/2 years old when he came to live with Rusty Peterson and his family. After a while, fungal and bacterial infections started breaking out in different places on the dog’s body. “He was in a little scuffle with another dog and got a fungal infection. A different time his toe became infected,” says Rusty. Priestly’s persistent health problems caused worry and concern for his family because they didn’t know why he kept getting sick or what to do about it.

Holistic veterinarian Chris Bessent, DVM in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin determined that Priestly’s immune system was under-active. She suggested Support Immunity, a Chinese herbal formula from Herbsmith. This proprietary blend of astragalus and codonopsis root provided the necessary balance to restore health and wellness within Priestly’s body. Sometimes it was hard to tell whether his infections were bacterial or fungal, but the herbal formula helped in either case because it provided a general boost to his immune system.

If your dog gets sick easily, more often than you’d like, or more often than seems normal, his problem might be an under-active immune system. According to Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM), a properly functioning immune system will protect your dog from the invasions of those ever-present bacteria or viruses. That’s its job. But if your dog’s immune system is under-active, that opportunistic bacteria or virus will invade his body, simply because it can. If he suffers from allergies or autoimmune diseases, then those symptoms indicate he has an over-active immune system. In either case, if you continue treating only his symptoms, you’ll never actually resolve the root of his problems.

What does a balanced immune system look like in our dogs, and how do we maintain that healthy balance? The following may sound a bit “magical,” but when you think about it, all body systems are actually quite miraculous in their ability to maintain health and balance when we make sure the body gets what it needs and nothing more.

Heredity or Heavenly Jing.
In Western medicine, DNA, heredity, and genetics refer to inherited or natural inclinations toward health or certain diseases. A dog with a family history of cancer, for example, might be inclined to develop cancer during his own lifetime. A balanced diet, vitamin supplements, and immunizations are recommended for building immunity against disease.

Chinese medicine refers to heredity as “heavenly jing,” or the life force or qi (pronounced “chee”) the dog is born with. “Post heavenly jing”, or the qi a dog develops over the course of his lifetime, depends on the food he eats, the quality of air he breathes, and the amount of movement or daily exercise he gets. Chinese theory refers to the immune system as wei qi (pronounced “way chee”) or an outer defense field on the surface of the body that protects it from invasion of wind, cold or damp, and from viruses, bacteria, protozoa, and microorganisms. A healthy wei qi results from a good balance of blood and qi within the body.

Yin and Yang.
From the Chinese perspective, blood is yin and qi is yang. For a balanced immune system, there must be a balance of yin and yang. Wei qi develops through the spleen and stomach with digestion. For example, the dog ingests a good quality food which gets “rotten and ripened” within the stomach (digested with the digestive enzymes). The components of that food—glucose, fatty acids, amino acids—then get absorbed through the small intestine and enter the rest of the body to provide basic building blocks of energy.

Chinese theory describes this process as spleen qi—the spleen takes in those food components and disburses them as food energy throughout the body, particularly sending the energy upward to the lung. If the lung is breathing in good oxygen, then every day, with every breath, good oxygen gets absorbed into the body. That combination of food qi from the spleen and air qi from the lungs descends down over the body and provides the good qi that we think of as energy.

Back to Wei Qi.
So the spleen and stomach need to function to their fullest in order to develop a foundation of post inherited or post heavenly jing, the qi that is developing every day. A healthy, balanced body needs a combined effort of the spleen and stomach functioning to their fullest, the lungs taking in good air and oxygen, and a movement of qi or energy throughout the body. This is where every day activity makes a big difference. Daily walks, runs, or games of fetch get the dog’s qi moving as it should throughout his body. Combined with a balance of yin and yang, good food, quality air, and daily exercise provide the complete foundation of a balanced immune system for vibrant health.

Inside, Outside, All Around the Dog.
Chinese Medicine explains the immune system or wei qi as the outer protective force field on the surface of the body. From the Western perspective, “the surface of the body” might be described as the hairy or furry part of the dog. But the Chinese perspective also sees the lining of the colon as part of the outer surface of the body. And here is why.

In order to get this perspective, it helps to perceive the dog’s body as an elongated donut. The donut hole is represented by the long “hole” from the dog’s mouth all the way to the opening at his other end. When viewed this way, the lining of his entire digestive system becomes part of the outer surface of his body along with his hairy, furry skin. The immune system, or outer force field, runs along this entire outer surface of the dog’s body protecting him from the invasion of viruses, bacteria, protozoa, or microorganisms.

“We feel there’s no way in the world Priestly would still be with us if it weren’t for those Chinese herbs,” says Rusty. “The docs [who previously saw Priestly for a CT scan] didn’t think he was going to live much longer.” At a cheerful 11-1/2 years old, Priestly will never be without those herbs. Safe for long-term use, the Support Immunity formula has a permanent spot in the dog’s medicine cabinet.

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