Ayurvedic Constitution Types: Which One Is Your Dog?
Mealtime is an exciting time for my pack mates and me. Our human sets our bowls out on the counter and lines up the different food items: specific proteins, supportive veggies and maybe a little fruit, all chosen according to our Ayurvedic constitution.
Ayurvedic medicine is based on the three humors—metabolic forces—that make up the mind and body. Together, all three are called the tridosha. The three doshas are vata (catabolism), pitta (metabolism), and kapha (anabolism).
Breed types can tend towards a predominance of a particular dosha. For instance, greyhounds and whippets and some terrier breeds tend to be vata, while Bernese Mountain Dogs and Saint Bernards tend to be kapha. German Shepherds and Australian Shepherds tend to be pitta.
- Governed by movement of mind and body; element is air
- Breed examples: Greyhound, Dalmation, Poodle, Whippet, some terriers
Vata dogs are high-energy and alert. They need daily activity, stimulation, fun and play. These are sprinting dogs but can tire easily despite their tons of energy. They are picky eaters with more modest appetites. Their nails are dry and brittle, their skin is cool, dry, and prone to cracking. They are uncomfortable in cold climates and their paws tend to be cold. Feces is dry and hard and small in quantity. They are fast learners, but tend to quickly forget what they’ve learned. They tend towards anxiety and sensitivity when stressed or out of balance.
- Governed by the interplay of water and fire, representing transformation
- Breed examples: German Shepherd, Australian Shepherd, Doberman, Rottweiler, Malinois.
Pitta dogs are smart, great protectors, and very athletic. They’re easily trained and thrive as agility dogs, service dogs, and movie dogs. Their fur is soft, paws are warm and often bothered by hot weather. They pee a lot. They have strong metabolisms and strong appetites; they can be irritable if they have to wait for their food. They have focused and concentrated minds. They can be aggressive and demanding when out of balance or stressed. They make good pack leaders.
- Governed by water and earth, representing structure and lubrication.
- Breed examples: Saint Bernard, Bassett Hound, Bernese Mountain Dog, some Labrador Retrievers.
Kapha dogs are physically strong with a sturdy build. They tend to be easy-going but stubborn. Their energy is steady, not explosive. They are not averse to cold and wet weather. They tend towards being overweight, and digestion may be sluggish. Stools are pale and there is a tendency toward constipation. They are slower to learn, but have good long-term memory. They are affectionate, forgiving, compassionate, reliable, faithful. They are considered the peacemakers. They can tend towards separation anxiety and excess weight if stressed or out of balance.
Changes in constitution
Just as it is with people, dogs’ constitutions can change as they mature or age. A person can be born with a pitta constitution, and by the time they are seniors they tend more towards vata or kapha.
An example from my own pack: my buddy Buckaroo. He started out as pitta, but he is now kapha. This transition began after he was neutered at two years of age. He’s the most laid-back member of the tribe, he sees food and gains weight, and he prefers cold weather and snow to warm weather. He prefers to sleep outside in winter despite the human protestations and bribery. However, he’s also the first dog in the house when the air conditioning is on. Buckaroo chooses a languid, effortless swim in the pond, while the rest of us run and jump into the water and chase each other around.
- Vata dogs do well eating chicken, buffalo, seafood, and duck.
- Pitta dogs do well on buffalo, rabbit, venison, freshwater fish, and turkey.
- Kapha dogs benefit from chicken (white meat), venison, and rabbit.
Other food considerations
Dogs with vata constitutions may need increased fat sources in their diet in their older years. Watch for constipated stools, and add more warming foods like pumpkin, sweet potato, squash, rice, and cooked oats or quinoa. Vata dogs do well with ghee, goat’s milk, kefir, and cottage cheese.
Buckaroo’s Warming Stew from BioStar is great for your vata dog, as a whole food blend of dehydrated and freeze-dried food formulated on the Ayurvedic principles of warming and balancing foods, to be added on top of your dog’s meals.
Dogs with pitta constitutions benefit from a variety of foods: broccoli, cabbage, cooked carrots, cucumber, zucchini, celery, kale, basmati rice, mung dal, and some fruits such as apples, berries, melons, and coconut. Include small amounts of ghee and goat’s milk once or twice a week.
Buckaroo’s Cooling Stew from BioStar is great for your pitta dog. This blend supplies Ayurvedic balancing and cooling ingredients that provide variety to your dog’s diet, support the various populations of the gut microbiota, and satisfy the innate canine curiosity of new tastes and smells.
Dogs with kapha constitutions do well with broccoli, carrots, cabbage, cauliflower, celery. You can add small amounts of apples, berries, and pears to their food bowl. They can have polenta, quinoa and cooked oats. They can have lentils such as split peas. They do well with chia and flax seeds and a small amount of ghee. Avoid cow’s milk. Kapha dogs can have goat’s milk and goat cheese (unsalted, not aged). Kapha dogs benefit from ginger, turmeric, and black pepper to increase the digestive fire.
Juvenate K9 from BioStar is great for your Kapha dog. It’s a unique supplement that contains the state-of-the-art Ayurvedic extract blend Crominex® 3+ for the support of healthy joints, circulatory support and weight management.
Feeding for the weather
Vata dogs benefit from their meals being warm and moist in winter. Remember, vata is associated with air, and needs moisture and warming to reduce dryness.
As dogs age, they may become vata, and so need warm water added to their food. Some vata dogs, as they age, may do better on home-cooked meals than raw.
Pitta dogs need cooling foods in summer. Remember, they are governed by fire. They can have watermelon, or you can freeze coconut oil with some chopped berries or melons in ice cube trays for a cooling treat. Avoid sour apples, bananas, and peaches. If you make a home-cooked meal for a pitta dog, make sure it has cooled entirely before feeding. Don’t add more fire to the fire!
Kapha dogs should avoid watery fruits and vegetables like dates, watermelon, cucumber, squash and zucchini. Particularly in summer, avoid heavy carbohydrates such as cooked oats and wheat.
Peanut butter is a popular treat for dogs, but peanut butter is only recommended for one type: vata. Peanuts are a warming food, so they’re not a good choice for pitta, and they’re too heavy and oily for kapha. In my pack we love peanut butter, and our other human, Peter, eats it all the time. We sometimes get to lick the spoon after he’s finished, and sometimes he sneaks a teaspoon of peanut butter to each of us. It’s our little secret, because if Nurse Ratched found out, Peter would be in big trouble.
Ayurvedic constitutions in practice
You don’t have to be as anal retentive as our human to effectively apply Ayurvedic constitution principles with your dog. If you have a vata dog, think warming. If you have a pitta dog, think cooling. If you have a kapha dog, think of foods that are light, warm, and dry.