What is Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine?
Traditional Chinese Medicine has been practiced in China for over 2,500 years. This ancient Eastern medical system has been dramatically useful in the healing, supporting and sustaining the robust health of both humans and animals.
Herbal remedies, massage, acupuncture and food therapy are customarily prescribed in tandem since their synergistic effects can culminate in more favorable results for patients undergoing these therapies.
Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) takes a holistic approach to their animal patients. The veterinarian views the pet as a totality instead of focusing only on particular symptoms. Veterinarians who practice TCVM regard health to exist in the balance between the internal condition of the body and the external environment in which the pet is living. This state of balance can be interrupted by injury, improper nutrition, pathogens and emotional disturbances.
TCVM is a form of interdependent treatment and is considered optimal when it is used in combination with conventional Western medicine when necessary. Typically noninvasive, this treatment modality has minimal side-effects. However, TCVM cannot diagnose the infections that may be causing a pet to be sick. Treatment utilizing TCVM is more appropriate to address chronic conditions such as kidney disease, liver disease and gastric disorders in addition to other ailments. Western medicine is better suited for the diagnosis and treatment of acute conditions. Although Chinese herbs can be used alone to treat a variety of medical conditions when used in combination with Western medications it can provide an enhanced positive effect.
The TCVM evaluation will be wholly dissimilar from the examinations to which clients are familiar. Before devising the correct TCVM treatment, the practitioner will first observe the pet’s behavior and composure, the brightness or cloudiness of their eyes and their coat and body condition. The practitioner will examine the tongue, smell the skin, check for mouth and ear odors and other physical and psychological clues to help reach a diagnosis. Palpating the body at various diagnostic points, evaluating the pulse and checking out the abdomen and limbs will provide vital information.
Since the owner’s observation of their pet is invaluable in reaching a diagnosis and treatment plan, the practitioner will spend time asking questions based on the client’s perceptions. For example, “Does the pet seek out warm or cold places?” “How do weather changes affect the pet?” “What foods tend to agree or disagree with the pet?”
Following this comprehensive examination, the veterinarian will design a treatment plan which may include Chinese herbs, acupuncture, food therapy and Chinese manipulative therapy called Tui-Na. When appropriate, Western medication may be combined with TCVM.
Acupuncture is an abiding interventional method. Small threadlike needles are placed quickly in the critical body points to get the Qi (the life force) moving. Qi flows around the body along meridians; the paths that interconnect the body surface with the internal organs. Qi moves freely when the needles are placed in these points; helping the body to maintain the desired balance.
Acupuncture is often used to treat a variety of conditions including pain control, musculoskeletal, neurological, gastrointestinal and respiratory ailments. This is frequently well tolerated by most pets.
Specific plants, animals and other ingredients found in the natural environment are used to create medicinal herbs that are tailored to move both Qi and strengthen Yin and Yan. These two elements are both equal and opposing forces. Yin is associated with the cold while Yan correlates heat. Chinese Herbs are prescribed to help balance these body forces and are often concocted from a mixture of various herbs to treat specific diagnoses. Herbal remedies are often combined with acupuncture to facilitate treatment.
Tui-Na is similar to massage therapy and Chiropractic treatment. It is the medical manipulation of the hands using diverse techniques to facilitate the flow of Qi throughout the body. This technique can also be taught to the pet owner by a certified Tui-Na practitioner to further help stimulate the pet’s healing process.
Food Therapy uses diet to both treat and to promote balance in the pet. The veterinarian will prescribe special diets that are based on the food’s energetics to treat specific diagnoses.
The goal of TCVM is promoting balance, offering pets treatment that is virtually pain-free. When used in conjunction with Western medicine both modalities complement one another. These therapies give the veterinarian a more extensive range of treatment and healing options to help their patients.
Are you interested in learning about your pet’s personality type? In celebration of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Month, FloridaWild Veterinary Hospital is eager to help you discover which of the 5 elements best describes your fur family member’s personality. This gift is available to each pet in May with a doctor’s appointment.
By Jo Singer, MSW, CSW, RCSW (Ret.)