Veterinary medicine has and is making extraordinary strides, with bold new diagnostic and treatment protocols becoming a reality every day. However, should modern or basic diagnostics or treatment fail, traditional Chinese veterinary medicine (TCVM), including acupuncture and herbs, can be an established, recognized alternative.
TCVM can benefit veterinarians with a variety of medical conditions such as musculoskeletal disorders, skin and ear problems, vomiting and diarrhea, seizures, urinary tract disorders, behavior problems, and more. TCVM can be used alone or in conjunction with Western medicine protocols.
The sample diagnosis
As an Inn Western Medicine, every visit to a TCVM veterinarian begins with a medical history and a snout-to-tail physical exam. However, TCVM practitioners also look for a few slightly different and often very subtle clues in order to develop a so-called model diagnosis that includes the following principles:
- Yin-Yang theory: The concept of dualism that all things exist as inseparable and contradicting opposites
- The 5 element theory: Describes the interactions and relationships between wood (liver), fire (heart), earth (spleen), metal (lungs) and water (kidneys).
- The 5 essential / essential substances: “Qi” and “Xue” (blood), “Jinge” (body fluids), “Jing” (essence), “Shen” (spirit)
- The 6 most common pathogens: The objects that cause disease – wind, cold, moisture, drought, fire and summer heat
The patient’s tongue can provide a lot of information. In TCVM, the tongue is divided into regions, each representing a system of organs, with the color of each section providing information to the doctor (Figure). Pallor, reddening and deep purple stand for deficiency, excess or stagnation. Dryness, cracks, or the presence of films on the tongue will help determine if TCVM pathogens have entered the body.
The skin and hair
When examining the fur, the TCVM veterinarian will assess its overall quality and check for dryness or greasiness. By assessing the skin, it can be determined whether there are deficiencies or excesses. Palpation of the back shu points (specific points on the back of the body that are connected to the patient’s organ systems) can provide a wealth of information about the musculoskeletal system. This is done simply by simply running your hands over a patient’s back before lifting their tail.
The femoral impulses
Similar to the tongue, the femoral impulses are divided into regions that are connected to the heart, lungs, liver, gallbladder, bladder, kidneys, and intestines. Sensing the quality of these impulses (e.g., excessive, already, slippery, weak, floating) and their corresponding organ systems will help practitioners accurately establish a comprehensive sample diagnosis. As soon as a model diagnosis has been made (e.g. kidney qi deficiency, excess yang, liver qi stagnation), treatment with acupuncture and herbs can begin.
Acupuncture uses acupuncture points to diffuse or infuse qi and blood associated with organ systems via meridians (channels through which these basic substances flow, similar to the circulatory system). Meridians and acupuncture points were mapped centuries ago; In veterinary medicine, they are based on the human model. Acupuncture sessions typically last 20 to 30 minutes and should be held in a quiet setting in the hospital. The most common acupuncture techniques used in veterinary practices are dry needling, aquapuncture, moxibustion, and electroacupuncture:
- Dry needling is the technique of placing sterile needles in predetermined acupuncture points.
- Aquapuncture is similar to dry needles, but involves the direct infusion of sterile saline or vitamin B12 into the acupuncture points.
- Moxibustion is the burning of moxa (mugwort) and the safe use of heat to dissipate cold patterns and return warmth to patients with yang deficiency.
- Electro acupuncture stimulates Nerves in patients with patterns of neuropathic deficiency (e.g. degenerative myelopathy).
Chinese herbs are most effective when used in conjunction with acupuncture. Herbal formulations from licensed distributors have been thoroughly studied and documented through clinical studies to be safe and effective. Most modern herbal formulations are based on ancient formulas that have been used for generations by doctors who practice traditional Chinese medicine.
Work as one
Acupuncture and herbal medicine go hand in hand with conventional modern medicine. These TCVM methods can be seamlessly integrated into any practice to aid in the diagnosis and treatment of a wide variety of diseases. They are an invaluable addition to any general or special practice. Patients will benefit from the multimodal diagnostic techniques and therapies, and customers will appreciate the benefits of alternative medicine in caring for their pets
Christopher Shapley, DVM, CVA, is a specialist in veterinary acupuncture and herbal medicine at Brick Town Veterinary Hospital in Brick Township, New Jersey. He lives with his Shar-Pei Carrie and Koi fish. In his spare time, Shapley enjoys kung fu, tai chi surfing, camping, and archery.