An Introduction to TCVM

I recently completed my first on-site session at the Chi Institute of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine. As I am embarking on this journey into the world of Eastern medicine and acupuncture, I am excited to share what I am learning and apply it to help better care for my patients. I would like to start by elaborating on some of the major questions I had before starting this course. 

What is Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM)? 

Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine is a theory rooted in ancient Chinese Daoist philosophy. The underlying theme of TCVM is balance. In health, our bodies exist in a state of equilibrium and interconnectedness. Disease arises from an unbalanced state. From an Eastern perspective, disease is diagnosed by identifying the pattern of imbalance within the body. This practice of pattern diagnosis is known as “bien zheng,” and it allows a TCVM practitioner to evaluate the patient as a whole to treat the root cause of disease as it affects the individual. By taking this approach, TCVM practitioners are able to customize their treatment to fit each patient, rather than apply a standard treatment to a single disease. TCVM relies on the principle that the body has the tools it needs to heal itself, and that restoring balance facilitates the body’s intrinsic curative power. 

What is acupuncture? 

Acupuncture refers to a treatment method that involves stimulation of specific points on the body, usually achieved through insertion of specialized needles (acupuncture needles). Acupuncture points are areas in the body that have decreased electrical resistance, increased electrical conductivity, and a high density of free nerve endings, arterioles (small blood vessels), lymphatic vessels, and mast cells. Stimulation of specific points causes a physiologic response within the body that can cause the release of hormones (i.e. endorphins), boost the immune system, and alter the flow of energy within the body. Acupuncture points are located along Meridians, or channels, along the body. Meridians correspond to known peripheral nerve pathways and serve as energy pathways for Qi to flow throughout the body. Qi (pronounced “chee”) is considered the life-force of the body. It is an innate force in the universe, and drives the body’s every action and function. These channels connect acupuncture points on the surface to internal organs and systems, allowing stimulation of external points to affect the function of the body’s internal functions. 

What is Integrative Medicine? 

Integrative medicine refers to the joining of Western Veterinary Medicine (WVM) and Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) to provide the best possible care and treatment for our patients. Both medical practices provide tremendous strengths as well as weaknesses or deficiencies. TCVM allows us to treat the underlying cause of disease and return the body to balance. Treatment methods in TCVM tend to be noninvasive and do not produce negative side effects. WVM takes advantage of scientific advances in diagnostics to allow us to pinpoint specific causes of disease and dysfunction. Modern medicine is very effective for treating acute infection or trauma with antibiotics and surgical intervention. By integrating the two types of medicine, we are able to diagnose and treat specific diseases while also addressing the individual patient as a whole and restoring balance. Integration of TCVM and WVM yields the balance needed to provide the best medicine to our patients. 

Would my pet benefit from acupuncture and an integrative medical approach? 

The short answer is yes! Every patient could benefit from the balancing principles of integrative medicine. Acupuncture can be used to treat disease as well as provide preventative care by boosting the immune system and ensuring the free flow of energy within the body. TCVM provides a means to fill the gap where conventional medical practices fall short. This could mean patients with chronic conditions (i.e. osteoarthritis or epilepsy) or patients whose clinical signs cannot be explained using our modern diagnostics. Because diagnostics in TCVM focuses on the pattern of the whole animal and not a specific set of pre-described conditions, we are able to address imbalance regardless of whether a definitive diagnosis has been reached. An integrative perspective to health allows us to address imbalance before clinical signs occur, and help us keep the body in its most harmonious state.