Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM), although relatively new to the Western world, is a medical system that has been used in China to treat animals for thousands of years. Though it can be traced back over two millennia in recorded history, it, like any medical system, continues to evolve today, and current research on acupuncture and herbal medicine is beginning to shed light on its mechanism of action.
In Chinese Medicine theory, disease is understood as an imbalance in the body, and diagnosis proceeds through identifying the underlying “pattern” of disharmony. TCVM practitioners will consider the temperament, sex, age, activity, and environment of an animal along with the animal’s particular disease signs. This approach stems from the belief that the body is as an interconnected system of forces and functions so that disease and disharmony must be examined with respect to the whole patient. For this reason, Chinese Medicine is often regarded as more holistic than conventional Western Medicine.
Once a particular type of disharmony or disease pattern is identified, treatment often proceeds through a combination of treatment modalities. There are actually four branches of TCVM – Acupuncture, Herbal Medicine, Food Therapy and Tui-na.
- Acupuncture is a treatment that involves the stimulation of points, typically achieved through the insertion of specialized needles into the body. Acupuncture points typically lie along the body’s Meridian Channels along which Qi flows. Most veterinary acupuncture points and Meridian lines are transposed to animals from humans, though knowledge of some “classical points” defined on particular species have been retained and are used to this day.
- Herbal Medicine utilizes herbal ingredients listed within the Chinese Herbal Materia Medica in particular combinations or formulas to treat particular disease patterns. Herbal formulas are administered orally and are typically given in tea pill or capsule form to cats and dogs.
- Food Therapy is the use of diet to treat and prevent imbalance within the body. It utilizes knowledge of the energetics of food ingredients to tailor diets for individual animals.
- Tui-na is a form of Chinese medical massage in which different manipulations are applied to acupoints and Meridians to promote the circulation of Qi and correct imbalances within the organ systems.