“The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” Mahatma Gandhi.
Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) is a medical system for the diagnosis, management and treatment of disharmony in animals, which has evolved over thousands of years in China and other eastern countries, and in recent times western countries. TCVM is used to diagnose, treat and manage diseases and behavioural disorders in domestic, companion and production species. The treatment of wildlife using TCVM is also evolving. TCVM treats the individual and is specific for each animal. The Chinese also use TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) as preventative medicine for humans.
In TCVM disease is considered as disharmony between the internal body and organs and the outside environment. TCVM is based upon the concepts of Yin and Yang, the Five Phases, the Eight Principles, and the Zang Fu (6 Yin and 6 Yang organs) organ systems of the body and Bian Zheng (pattern recognition).
In brief Yin refers to the parasympathetic system of resting, storage of energy, vasodilation, and decreased heart rate and the nourishing aspects of the body/universe and is cooling and nourishing energy; whereas Yang is the sympathetic system of physiological activities, release of energy, increased heart rate etc. and is warming and functional energy.
The Eight Principles are an expansion of Yin and Yang to aid in determining the location and extent of the animal's disharmony. The 5 phases or elements explain the relationship between the organs, tissues, seasons, personality, emotions, colours, senses and energetic system of the body. Understanding a disease process with respect to all these concepts aid in consolidating a pattern and determining the correct treatment strategy.
TCVM fundamental principles are to identify the imbalance and using several modalities, treat the root cause of ill health/disharmony. These modalities are herbal medicine, acupuncture, tui-na (a form of massage) and food therapy. Diagnosis involves identifying the Bian Zheng (differentiation and identification of the pattern presented) and utilises pulse diagnosis, tongue diagnosis, the 5 element theory, theory of meridians and collaterals, theory of Qi and blood, differentiation of disease according to the eight principles, history, presenting signs, palpation and in modern times western diagnostics, where applicable.
There are multiple validation/review studies into both acupuncture and Chinese herbs or herbal formulae within scientific literature, more with reference to human medicine than veterinary. Veterinary research is increasing and numerous studies mainly relating to domestic species and birds can been found in both review and specific papers, numerous books as well as information on the toxicology of herbs.
TCVM aims to rebalance the whole body and promote healing and homeostasis throughout. It has been used to manage, treat and aid in adressing numerous conditions. Some examples include, but not limited to:
- musculoskeletal issues - lameness, back and neck pain, intervertebral disc disease, cruciate ligament injury, pain, paralysis, spondylosis and other musculoskeletal issues
- neurological conditions - epilepsy, traumatic nerve and spinal cord injuries, paresis or paralysis
- during rehabilitation, post-operatively after surgery
- immune mediated problems and cancer may also benefit from these modalities, either as part of an integrative approach, or to manage the side effects of chemotherapy
- hepatic, liver and renal issues (urinary tract issues) - incontinence, urine retention, idiopathic cystitis, inappropriate spraying, liver and kidney dis-eases
- gastro-intestinal conditions: diarrhoea, vomiting, megacolon and irritable bowel disease
- respiratory conditions - chronic infections, asthma
- dermatological/skin conditions
- improves blood and lymphatic circulation, stimulates the regeneration of nerves, and helps to balance the immune system and endocrine function
Scientific studies have shown increases in endogenous opioids and other locally and centrally acting mediators, red and white blood cell counts and cortisol levels in the blood stream after acupuncture. Acupuncture stimulates many physiological, neural and endocrine, as well as energetic pathways in the body, always bringing the body back to a state of balance and homeostasis via the inherent self‐healing of cells.
Herbal Medicine Open or Close
There are an extensive catalogue of veterinary herbs and herbal formulae which have been used successfully in domestic, companion, equine and wildlife species for a wide range of conditions. Dose rates of herbs would be dependent on the herbal formula, disease severity, species, animal size, condition and individual variation. Herbs can be administered as powder, teapills or capsules and given orally, as enemas, hidden in food, administered by compounding into a palatable slurry given orally, or injected into prey items. When treating amphibians herbs can be prepared as a medicated gel or administered by oral lavage for fish.
Herbal formulae selection is based on the principle of Bian Zheng (differentiation and identification of the pattern presented) and has been used in TCM for some 3600 years. Animals on the earth have co-evolved with plants and thus have gastrointestinal and detoxification systems that are more safely amenable to herbal treatment than most pharmaceutical drugs, although there are exceptions. A competent herbal practitioner knows which herbs may be a problem in some species or when given concurrently with some western drugs.
Acupuncture Open or Close
At Animal Konnection we practice energetic acupuncture mainly. Acupuncture usually involves the insertion of fine sterile needles into specific points on the body to produce a healing response. Needles are usually left in place for 10-20 minutes. Each acupuncture point has specific actions when stimulated and are connected to each other via meridians (or channels) inside the body. Veterinarians who use acupuncture in their practice commonly use it for musculoskeletal conditions such as arthritis, intervertebral disk disease, paralysis, lameness and pain from various causes. It is also excellent for treating problems in other systems of the body including the digestive tract, reproductive system, skin and the respiratory tract.
There are different ways to perform acupuncture including dry needles, electro-acupuncture, laser or photonic red-light acupuncture, aquapuncture (injecting minute amounts of liquids such as Vitamin B12, blood or saline into points) and moxibustion (heating needles with moxa herb or using moxa sticks).
Scientific studies have proven the existence of acupuncture points and how stimulation of these points has definitive and positive effects on the body’s physiology. It has been proven to affect the nervous system, improve blood flow, stimulate release of hormones, alleviate muscle spasm and relieve pain. It is now hypothesised that acupuncture channels or meridians run both underneath the skin and around organs at the level of the fascia or connective tissue which is continuous from one end of the body to the other.
Acupuncture increases the body’s release of natural painkillers such as endorphins and serotonin which modify pain pathways in the brain and spinal cord. After treatment animals often exhibit behavioural changes, improved appetite and demeanour, as well as pain relief and improved movement. Some individuals are very responsive to acupuncture and will show dramatic improvement after one treatment. The vast majority however will respond gradually over a period of time. On average 3-6 treatments are required, depending on the issue. Initially these are given weekly or bi-weekly, then at gradually increasing intervals until the desired outcome is achieved. The frequency of follow-up treatments depends on your pet’s individual needs, but regular top-ups are usually required in chronic cases to maintain the therapeutic effect. Some patients, along with some diseases, do not respond to acupuncture.
Diet and Food Therapy Open or Close
Food therapy uses foods to assist in restoring health and balance to the digestive, physiological, nervous and musculoskeletal systems. Correct diet is important in maintaining well-being. Food therapy is the correct use of diet to treat and prevent imbalances within the body. It utilises knowledge of the energetics of food ingredients to tailor meals for individual animals.
Tui-na Open or Close
Tui-na a form of therapeutic Chinese massage/manipulative techniques used in many species. Different manipulations are applied to acupoints and meridians to promote the circulation of Qi and correct imbalances within the organ systems.