Ayurveda-a living style

Ayurveda, meaning the science of life, is the oldest existing medical system. In India the history of traditional veterinary science dates back to the period of Mahabharata 1000-900 BCE. During the battle the hurt and diseased animals were treated with medicinal plants. The Pandava brothers Nakula and Sahadeva were the sons of the physicians of the gods, the Ashvins, and doctors of horses and cows.


It is only in the 20th century that the divide between doctors treating humans and those treating animals widened and finally separated. Till then, all over the world, the same person treated both.  Indian medical treatises like the Charaka, Sushruta and Harita Samhita also contained prescriptions for animal care. The earliest and most important work is that of Shalihotra (c. 2350 BC), the son of a Brahmin sage, Hayagosha, from Sravasti in Uttar Pradesh. Shalihotra's principal work was the Shalihotra Samhita, a treatise on the care and management of horses, with 12,000 shlokas in Sanskrit describing equine and elephant anatomy, diseases, cures and surgical procedures – and veterinary ethics. Nakula wrote the Ashva-chikitsa or book on horse medicine and Sahadeva wrote Gavyayurveda on cattle medicine.


Body typing is a unique concept in Ayurvedic medicine and it applies to animals as well. The Tridosha are the three forces that make up the mind and body - Vata, Pitta and Kapha. These are made up with combinations of five elements: Vata = Ether + Air , Pitta = Fire + Water and Kapha = Water + Earth.  These three Doshas control all biological, psychological, and physical functions of the body, mind and consciousness and determine personality traits and physiological structure.


A balance of the doshas is necessary for health. These doshas can be increased or decreased. For example, Vata is dry, light, and cold; so any food, medicine, or behaviour that increases these qualities will increase Vata within the body. Conversely, oily, heavy, or hot factors will decrease Vata. The permutations lead to different constitutions.


Vata governs movement in the mind and body. It controls blood flow, elimination of wastes, breathing and the movement of thoughts. The related elements are Air and Ether. Common characteristics of pets who have a predominantly Vata constitution:

Intelligence, quick to learn but also quick to forget, slender and small framed;  walks quickly, tendency toward cold paws, discomfort in cold weather, excitable, lively, fun, tendency to act on impulse, distracted easily, high energy in short bursts , tendency to tire easily and to overexert. Full of joy and enthusiasm when in balance, but stressed with anxiety when out of balance. Generally with dry skin and dry fur and cold paws. Typical health problems include hypertension, earaches, anxiety, irregular heart rhythms, muscle spasms, lower back pain, constipation, abdominal gas, diarrhoea, nervous stomach and arthritis. The eyes may be sunken, small, dry, and active. The nails are rough and brittle. The shape of the nose is bent and sometimes turned-up. The production of urine is scanty and the faeces are dry, hard, and small in quantity. The sleep may be disturbed


Pitta is a force created by the interplay of water and fire. Pitta governs digestion, absorption, assimilation, nutrition, metabolism, and body temperature, the lustre of the eyes, intelligence, and understanding. Psychologically, Pitta arouses anger and jealousy. The small intestine, stomach, sweat glands, blood, fat, eyes, and skin are the seats of Pitta. 


Animals with a predominantly Pitta body type are of medium physique, strong, well-built. They are focused, competitive, assertive, self-confident, impatient, jealous, easily angered when stressed, and like to be in command.These turn into aggression and pushiness when out of balance. They have a strong appetite and get irritated if they have to miss or wait for a meal. Pittas are uncomfortable in sun or hot weather; heat makes them very tired. Typical physical problems include rashes or inflammations of the skin, acne, boils, skin cancer, ulcers, heartburn, acid stomach, bloodshot or burning eyes and other vision problems, anaemia, jaundice.


The fur is soft and warm. The eyeballs will be of medium prominence. The claws are softer. The shape of the nose is sharp. Their sleep is of medium duration but uninterrupted. They produce a large volume of urine. The body temperature may run slightly high, and their paws will tend to be warm.


Kapha is water and earth. This dosha maintains body resistance. Kapha lubricates the joints, provides moisture to the skin, helps to heal wounds, gives biological strength, vigour, and stability, supports memory retention, gives energy to the heart and lungs, and maintains immunity. Kapha is present in the chest, throat, head, sinuses, nose, mouth, stomach, joints, plasma, and in the liquid secretions of the body, such as mucus. Animals who have a predominantly Kapha constitution are easygoing, relaxed, calm , slow-paced , graceful, affectionate and loving, self sufficient, forgiving, compassionate, non-judgmental, stable and reliable; faithful with a mild, gentle, and essentially undemanding approach to life . However they can be possessive and greedy. They are physically strong with a sturdy, heavier build. They have a steady and enduring energy, are slower to learn, but never forget. They have soft and thick fur; large “soft” eyes and broad chests. They tend towards overweight and may suffer from sluggish digestion but have a strong resistance to disease. They don’t like cold, damp weather. Physical problems include colds and congestion, respiratory problems hay fever, allergies, and atherosclerosis. Due to slow digestion, they tend to consume less food. Stools are soft and may be pale in colour, evacuation is slow. Sleep is sound and prolonged.


The body types are a combination and permutation of the dosha present in them. In order to balance the changes that come through the environment an animal owner may create a balance for their pet in the internal forces by altering his or her diet and lifestyle.


In Ayurveda, food is medicine and it is important to consider the right ingredients, proportions, freshness and seasonality, promoting balance with foods that counter or diminish the excess dosha. If you choose to change your pets’ diets, do so slowly, taking about three weeks to switch them over to a better alternative.


In addition to the pet’s dosha, keep in consideration whether the animal is a larger or smaller breed, active or a couch potato.  Below are a few specific food recommendations based on either vata, pitta or kapha canines.

Vata (e.g. Greyhound dog) – Vata dogs run cool and dry and should avoid beans, cauliflower, broccoli, peppers, and potatoes. Feed them warming foods along with washed and pureed carrots and squashes although they can be quickly blanched then pureed for enhanced digestion.


Avoid ghee as it is hard for animals to digest and can lead to pancreatitis. For pets experiencing digestive issues, they can be fed “khichdi” made with white basmati rice and mung beans.  Spices can include black pepper, cumin and coriander, with a slight bit of hing for Vata dogs.

Pitta (e.g. bulldogs) – As Pitta dogs tend to run warm, avoid foods that provoke warmth. They do well with cooling foods; dairy products such as cottage cheese, and even tofu.  Fresh pureed veggies such as leafy greens are beneficial as well.

Kapha (e.g. overweight Golden Retriever) – For the heavy-set Kapha pet, the diet should contain more wholesome foods such as fresh veggies. Avoid starch, grains and fat, and additives such as molasses and corn syrup.  Veggies should include carrots, squash and pumpkin and should always be washed, raw and pureed.


The most common herbs and spices for pets include turmeric, cumin and coriander powders for balancing digestion. Try dried or fresh ginger for Vata pets, cumin and coriander for Pitta, and turmeric for Kapha. Take care not to overindulge, as a 60 lb. dog only needs 1/8 of a teaspoon of any given herb.

For hyperactive dogs, ashwagandha has a calming effect.


Maneka Sanjay Gandhi


Pl. add: To join the animal welfare movement contact gandhim@nic.in, www.peopleforanimalsindia.org

*Proper wildlife rehabilitation is an extremely biologically and ecologically responsible attitude toward all living things.*