What is Traditional Veterinary Chinese Medicine?

Rolling Meadows Animal Hospital, Adrian, MO

Whether we are dealing with Traditional Western Veterinary Medicine, Veterinary Chiropractic Care, Veterinary Acupuncture, engineering or mathematics, every system of thought has basic rules or principles called theories.

The ancient Chinese determined some basic theories or principles that seemed to hold true for all conditions. These theories become the basis for evaluating clinical signs and the diagnosis of disease patterns. Please note, all these theories were not determined at the same time. ALL medicine is an evolving process, as new ideas are developed, more principles are added.
Basically, everything is either yin or yang. They are opposites that flow into each other. One can not exist without the other. (Example: Night cannot exist without day. For a full discussion of yin and yang theory click here.)

The next basic theory is the 5 element theory. This forms the basis for diagnosis and treatment. According to this theory, there are 5 elements, wood-fire-earth-metal-water. Through a series of interrelationships, these elements nourish and control each other. Imbalances are the cause of disease. (For a full discussion of the theory click here.) Each element has certain organ systems associated with it. This then explains some of the mixtures of clinical signs we see and how they are associated.

There are other basic theories including zang-fu organ theory, meridian theory, channel theory, etc, that are also used in diagnosis and treatment, depending on the situation and condition.

TCVM believes health is achieved by maintaining the body in a “balanced state” and that disease is due to an internal imbalance of yin and yang. This imbalance leads to blockage in the flow of Qi (vital energy) along pathways known as meridians. In order to be healthy, Qi flow and blood flow must be correct. Blockage of flow results in pain and/or disease.

• Exercise, Rest and Relaxation (Qi-gong or Tai-ji in humans)
• Acupuncture
• Herbal Therapy
• Tui-na (Chinese adjusting/deep massage/meridian Therapy)

Use of each of these areas together will help maintain or achieve health.

What is acupuncture?
It is believed that there are 12 main meridians and 8 extraordinary meridians through which Qi flows. These meridians cover the body inside and outside. Treatment with acupuncture involves stimulating access points, many of which are on these meridians. Many techniques are used to stimulate an acupuncture point. (See EQUINE ACUPUNCTURE.)

Acupuncture needles are traditionally used. These needles are solid, metallic and finer than an insulin needle. The sensation caused by an acupuncture needle varies. Some points may be reactive or tender. Many times the animals relax as endophins are released into the body.

How does acupuncture work?
Acupuncture operates on the concept that there is another system in the body. Like the blood in the blood vessels, and nerves transmitting electrical impulses, there are pathways along the body through which there is a flow of energy. These pathways, called meridians, have access points. These are the points used for acupuncture.

From a Western Veterinary point of view, acupuncture stimulates nerves, increases blood circulation, and relieves muscle spasms. It can also cause the release of hormones, such as endorphins (one of the body’s pain control chemicals) and cortisol (a natural steroid). Although many of acupuncture’s physiological effects have been studied, many more are still unknown.

From a TCVM point of view, acupuncture helps return the bodies balance of Qi and blood flow to normal, so the body can heal itself. When an acupuncture point is stimulated, normal flow of energy and blood can be restored.

Is acupuncture painful?
Most animals seem to enjoy acupuncture. If you have looked at the personality assessment, FIRE personalities tend to be the ones who like it the least. Horses usually relax during the procedure, slightly closing their eyes and licking, chewing and yawning.

Can you sedate animals for acupuncture?
Sedation decreases the effectiveness about 30% (according to Dr. Xie, Chi Institute). But Veterinary Acupuncture can be challenging at times. For safety reasons, if an animal needs sedation for complete treatment, we will do the treatment sedated.

How safe is acupuncture?
Acupuncture is VERY safe when applied by someone who is properly trained! Side effects are rare but do occur. Sometimes a condition may seem to get worse for a few days before improving. This seems to occur in older or weak animals and is usually followed by an improvement in the original condition.

How long does a treatment take and how many treatments are needed?
Treatment including assessment, needle placement, etc. usually takes 30 minutes to 1 hour. Depending on the technique used for treatment, needles may be left in place for a few minutes up to and hour. Some conditions may even respond to permanent implants in certain locations!

We usually explain that at least 3 treatments are needed to give acupuncture a chance. Many conditions however, respond to the first treatment. Time between treatments varies with the condition.

For what conditions is veterinary acupuncture used?
A partial list includes:
• Back pain
• Osteoarthritis/Degenerative Joint Disease
• Lameness
• Crankiness or Stiffness Under Saddle
• Laryngeal Hemiplegia (Roarers)
• COPD/Heaves
• Muscle damage or Atrophy
• Nerve Damage or Local Paralysis
• Foot Soreness (Laminitis, Navicular Syndrome,etc..)
• Anhydrosis (Non-Sweaters)
• Tumors and growths
• Tying Up
• Immune Disorders
• Infertility
• Endocrine Disorders
• Geriatrics
• Colic
• Gastric ulcers
• Constipation
• Diarrhea
• Uveitis
• Jaw Pain
• Wobblers/Neck Pain
• Behavior issues
• Performance issues
• Dry hooves, hair and skin
… any condition can be treated, but many can be prevented or slowed through the use of TCVM!!

Is acupuncture a cure all?
Absolutely not. Nothing is 100%. All complementary therapies are just added tools for use in maintaining your animals health.

How does herbal medicine work?
Chinese herbs are used to treat the same conditions diagnosed and treated with acupuncture. Thousands of years of trial and error (see HISTORY of TCVM) has resulted in the use of specific single herbs or combinations. These herbs are each seen to have specific effects according to the TCVM system. The key is a proper diagnosis. Herbal combinations must be used with care to avoid interactions with medications. Some herbs do test in drug test situations.

What is Tui-na?
Tui-na is the Chinese system of chiropractic, massage and meridian therapy. It is a very effective system that adds a biomechanical component to the TCVM system.

This is a very simple explanation of TCVM. It is a very complex system that can provide a much needed “different” perspective.

For appointments: Rolling Meadows Animal Hospital Adrian, MO 816-297-2006