Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine, or TCVM, is a medical system that has been used to treat humans and animals in China for thousands of years. Even though it is quite old, TCVM is constantly evolving and new research comes out all the time.

TCVM may initially be quite foreign to Western-trained minds. In general, Western medicine believes in control while TCVM believes in balance; Western medicine is more mechanistic while TCVM is more energetic.

Western medicine practitioners analyze a disease process to discover its specific, fundamental, physical cause whether this is from an infectious agent, an enzymatic defect, or toxin insult. By fully understanding the functions of the physical body all the way down to a cellular or molecular level, one can target the abnormality and better control the disease process. This is seen when we are diagnosing and treating osteoarthritis in our companion animals: we know this condition involves the loss of joint cartilage, thickening of the joint capsule, and new bone formation around the joint which leads to pain and dysfunction of the affected limb. A lot of osteoarthritis cases are usually secondary to another condition such as hip/elbow dysplasia or cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) disease. The best way to diagnose this is to do an orthopedic exam and take radiographs (x-rays), and treatment usually involves a number of things including weight control, pain medications, rehabilitation, joint supplements, and activity modification.

On the other hand, TCVM practitioners recognize disease in the body as an imbalance. They understand that the body is an integrated, energetic structure, and that disturbance of energy flow creates disease in the whole organism. When a disease Pattern is identified, one can restore the balance and health by helping the body regulate itself. Going back to our osteoarthritis example, this can be seen in TCVM as (generally) Bi syndrome. Bi (pronounced as “bee”) refers to stiffness and blockage of circulation and involves pain in muscles, tendons, bones, and joints as well as difficult movement or deformation of these structures. These disorders result from an invasion of wind, cold, damp, and heat. Wind, cold, and damp Bi are considered excess patterns and bony Bi is a deficiency pattern, which includes Kidney Qi, Yang and Yin deficiency patterns.

Both systems rely on medical history and a physical exam to make a diagnosis or identify a Pattern. Western medicine adds in diagnostics tests including bloodwork or x-rays. The diagnostic tests in TCVM include palpation of the pulse and the shu points. Western practitioners may recommend surgery or reach for antibiotics, steroids, or other pharmaceuticals, while aTCVM practitioner may recommend herbs, acupuncture, or special management practices as therapy.

The four main pillars of TCVM are acupuncture, herbs, food therapy, and tui-na. These all will be explained in later blog posts, so stay tuned!!

Did some of this go over your head? Are you interested to learn more? Let us know!

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