Blog: TCVM Series Part 3 of 7- Wood Element Personality

Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine: Five Element Theory

by Alexandra Mittner DVM

Today we are going to discuss the Wood element personality type and some of the diseases that they are predisposed to. Last time we discussed the 5 element theory and how everything flows through a cycle between the elements; wood to fire to earth to metal to water. We also discussed how each element has assigned characteristics, such as taste, color, time of the year and stage of life. Some of the characteristics we mentioned were associated with the wood element are: the color green, the direction of east, the emotion of anger, and foods with a sour taste.

In Chinese medicine each animal has a base personality type. Typically once their personality is established, the animal remains at its core that personality, and predisposed to the influences of that element. However, as the animal goes through life, and through the cycle, the other elements will influence how they react to their environment and can influence and add depth to their personality. Every person and animal has a different set of experiences, we are all individuals. Knowing core personality types can help us better understand our interactions throughout life.

Wood personality animals are generally very confident, friendly animals. This is a dog that is not usually afraid of anything, and may charge right up to you in greeting but then will want to lick your face. These dogs love attention, and want to please their owners. They are very driven to win. These dog live in the moment and are very aware of their  surrounding, which makes them great dogs for agility, hunting and other sports. They are very sensitive to changes in their environment which allows them to react quickly, and they have a natural drive to take charge of a situation, and strive to win. Because of their competitive nature these dogs need a job or they can become destructive.

No matter what breed or size wood dogs tend to be on the thin side, usually being ideal body weight and often seeming a little underweight to their owners. They usually have big eyes and their thin stature allows for quick, nimble moments making them great competitors and runners. 

When wood dogs get out of balance they are prone to irritability and even aggression, as wood’s associated emotion is anger. They may lash out at their owners and other animals they are normally friends with. Although their sensitivity to their environment allows for them to adapt on the fly in competition, at home they need a very stable environment. These dogs do very well in households with routine and consistency. They are easily affected by stress, therefore turmoil in the home or moving to a new home/environment often leads to imbalance.

The wood element is associated with the liver system in Chinese medicine, with the liver and gall bladder being the primary organs. These organs play very important roles in our bodies physiologically. They detoxify our body and make sure energy and nutrients are going to where they are needed. The liver is very sensitive to stress. Steroids and hormones produced during stress ramp up the production of liver enzymes, so that more nutrients are available to our body. However, the liver also has a great capacity to heal, and should return to normal function when stress is removed. 

When wood animals get out of balance they are prone to disorders associated with the wood system. This means they are prone to diseases like hepatitis or gall bladder stones. There are also other associations with the wood element in the body that may be affected. The feet are associated with wood, as they act like the roots of the tree to connect us with the earth. So we could also see an issue like pododermatitis, which is irritation of the skin of the feet. The dogs may be licking or chewing their feet, and may have sores. Tendons and ligaments may also be affected as these are like the trunk/stems, giving our body structural support. Animals may get bow-tendons, strains, or tears, such as a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in the knee.

Wood animals are also predisposed to conditions associated with the wind pathogen in Chinese medicine. Wind rattles wood animals like it shakes the leaves of a tree. Wind conditions may manifest as something externally, like itching/allergy issues or more severe disease internally, like seizure disorders.

Knowing the personality of your animal can help to understand why they react to situations a certain way and what diseases they may be predisposed to. Once we have determined their personality type, we can work together to support your best friend throughout their lifetime and optimize their quality of life.