An Explination of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine in Orlando, Winter Park, Oviedo, Altamonte and Surrounding Areas

If you are not quite sure what Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) is all about the following article should help shed some light on the subject. This excerpt from an article written by Susan Thorpe-Vargas, PhD and John C. Gargill, MA, MBA, MS
(full article available at is an excellent summary of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

To understand the basics of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and acupuncture it is important to comprehend the tradition out of which it developed. In TCM, animals and humans are viewed as tiny parts of an infinite universe subject to laws that govern all living and nonliving things. The fundamental concept is that an animal or person who follows these general laws of nature will reap the benefits of good health.

Acupuncture is not a stand-alone procedure in this framework; rather, it is a part of a much larger medical system encompassing acupuncture, moxibustion (the burning of moxa, a soft downy material, on the skin in the treatment of various disorders), Tui-Na (massage), breathing exercises, nutrition, herbal medicine and even philosophy of life. The goal of TCM is to diagnose imbalances in the life force (Qi), determine their causes and subsequently remove those causes from the patient's environment (treatment). TCM views disease as an imbalance between two polarities of Qi, yin (-) and yang (+). Within this conceptual framework, acupuncture is used to "communicate" with body organs and tissues through special channels or meridians. (There is no known physiological equivalent to these energy pathways.) Health and healing in this context is the integration and restoration of balance or harmony of Qi. This view has been validated most recently by the discovery of the relationship between brain chemistry and the immune system. Some critics assert that Western medicine has a mechanistic view of health, reducing disease and illness to specific cellular and molecular systems. Outstanding medical advances have been made using the western viewpoint, but, according to the Eastern tradition, the sum of the whole body still is greater than its parts.

The effectiveness of many traditional acupuncture points has been determined experimentally. Some 670 of them have survived the test of time. In her book, Between Heaven and Earth, Harriet Beinfield proposed an analogy: "comparing an acupuncturist with a Western veterinary or medical practitioner is similar to comparing a gardener and a mechanic" The gardener considers the totality of his or her plants' environment (sunlight, density of planting, types and amounts of fertilizer, temperature, water, etc.), whereas the mechanic searches to replace or repair a dysfunctional component.

At the traditional vet's office, the dog is placed on the examining table, and the vet asks questions about the frequency and quantity of urination. While the owner is talking, the vet takes the dog's temperature and then begins to perform a physical exam that includes listening to the heart and bowel sounds and palpating the abdomen to check for any masses. The vet suggests several lab tests to rule out a urinary tract infection and other more serious diseases such as diabetes mellitus and diabetes insipidus. The total focus of the appointment is to address the clinical symptoms. In contrast, the vet trained in TCM asks questions about the dog's behavior and previous history, which may be similar to the questions that the traditional vet asks, such as: "Does the dog drink small or large amounts of water at one time?" "When did the behavior start to occur?" and "How often does it happen?"

The practitioner then goes on to ask what may seem to be unrelated questions. Does it happen more frequently at a particular time of the day? Does your pet choose to sleep in the sun, or does she seek out a cool, shady spot? Does she like to lie on a soft surface, or does she prefer to sleep on a firm supportive surface?

By now the owner may become impatient with answering detailed questions that do not appear to have anything to do with the problem. But to a practitioner of TCM, these questions are all valid because the patient is an individual made up of physical, mental and emotional components. Questions are asked about the dog's environment, her diet and favorite foods, stressors and behavioral tendencies in an attempt to consider the "whole," just as the gardener considers the totality of his or her environment.

While the owner is relating this information, the TCM practitioner observes the animal's behavior in the exam room, checking her tongue, looking at the dog's body shape and examining her skin and coat. The next part of the exam includes listening to the chest with a stethoscope and taking note of the breathing sounds and the character of her bark.

Just like the Western clinician, the TCM practitioner then palpates the abdomen and limbs. In addition he or she will check the dog's pulse (which provides information about organ systems and their locations on energy pathways) and also will assess specific areas along the back, sides and abdomen. In this tradition these diagnostic points correspond to specific internal organs.

Finally, the TCM practitioner smells for specific odors emanating from the eyes, nose, ears and mouth, which all play a part in the diagnostic process.

Some More Basic ideas of Chinese medicine

Chinese medicine views the body as a small part of the universe, and subject to universal laws and principles of harmony and balance. Chinese medicine does not draw a sharp line, as Western medicine does, between mind and body. The Chinese system believes that emotions and mental states are every bit as influential on disease as purely physical mechanisms, and considers factors like work, environment, lifestyle, and relationships as fundamental to the overall picture of a patient's health. Chinese medicine also uses very different symbols and ideas to discuss the body and health. While Western medicine typically describes health in terms of measurable physical processes made up of chemical reactions, the Chinese use ideas like yin and yang, chi, the organ system, and the five elements to describe health and the body. To understand the ideas behind acupuncture, it is worthwhile to introduce some of these basic terms.

Yin and yang

According to Chinese philosophy, the universe and the body can be described by two separate but complementary principles, that of yin and yang. For example, in temperature, yin is cold and yang is hot. In gender, yin is female and yang is male. In activity, yin is passive and yang is active. In light, yin is dark and yang is bright; in direction yin is inward and downward and yang is outward and up, and so on. Nothing is ever completely yin or yang, but a combination of the two. These two principles are always interacting, opposing, and influencing each other. The goal of Chinese medicine is not to eliminate either yin or yang, but to allow the two to balance each other and exist harmoniously together. For instance, if a person suffers from symptoms of high blood pressure, the Chinese system would say that the heart organ might have too much yang, and would recommend methods either to reduce the yang or to increase the yin of the heart, depending on the other symptoms and organs in the body. Thus, acupuncture therapies seek to either increase or reduce yang, or increase or reduce yin in particular regions of the body.


Another fundamental concept of Chinese medicine is that of qi (pronounced chee , also spelled chi ). Chi is the fundamental life energy of the universe. It is invisible and is found in the environment in the air, water, food and sunlight. In the body, it is the invisible vital force that creates and animates life. We are all born with inherited amounts of chi, and we also get acquired chi from the food we eat and the air we breathe. The level and quality of a person's chi also depends on the state of physical, mental and emotional balance. Chi travels through the body along channels called meridians.

The organ system

In the Chinese system, there are twelve main organs: the lung, large intestine, stomach, spleen, heart, small intestine, urinary bladder, kidney, liver, gallbladder, pericardium, and the "triple warmer," which represents the entire torso region. Each organ has chi energy associated with it, and each organ interacts with particular emotions on the mental level. As there are twelve organs, there are twelve types of chi which can move through the body, and these move through twelve main channels or meridians. Chinese doctors connect symptoms to organs. That is, symptoms are caused by yin/yang imbalances in one or more organs, or by an unhealthy flow of chi to or from one organ to another. Each organ has a different profile of symptoms it can manifest.

The five elements

Another basis of Chinese theory is that the world and body are made up of five main elements: wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. These elements are all interconnected, and each element either generates or controls another element. For instance, water controls fire and earth generates metal. Each organ is associated with one of the five elements. The Chinese system uses elements and organs to describe and treat conditions. For instance, the kidney is associated with water and the heart is associated with fire, and the two organs are related as water and fire are related. If the kidney is weak, then there might be a corresponding fire problem in the heart, so treatment might be made by acupuncture or herbs to cool the heart system and/or increase energy in the kidney system.

The Chinese have developed an intricate system of how organs and elements are related to physical and mental symptoms, and the above example is a very simple one. Although this system sounds suspect to Western scientists, some interesting parallels have been observed. For instance, Western medicine has observed that with severe heart problems, kidney failure often follows, but it still does not know exactly why. In Chinese medicine, this connection between the two organs has long been established.

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