Traditional Chinese Medicine
Traditional Chinese Medicine, or TCM, has been practiced on animals and humans for thousands of years. The ancient Chinese believed that health depends on the flow of vital energy in the body, called “Qi,” also spelled “Chi.” Imbalance of Qi was thought to lead to disharmony and disease.
There are several branches to TCM as used in veterinary medicine: Acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, Tui-na (a form of therapeutic acumassage), and food therapy, in which diet is used to prevent and treat disease.
According to TCM, Qi travels through the body on pathways called “meridians.” Acupuncture points are small areas on these pathways which have high numbers of nerve endings, lymphatics, inflammatory cells and small blood vessels. Treatment of these areas can be done by insertion of fine needles, finger pressure, application of heat or therapeutic laser, electro-stimulation or injection of sterile saline. Treatment causes release of endorphins and other neurotransmitters, leading to pain relief, increased circulation and other beneficial effects.
A typical acupuncture session lasts from 20-60 minutes. Some patients may show improvement after one session, but chronic problems may require several treatments. Most animals are comfortable and relaxed during treatment; some will become drowsy or fall asleep. Sedation is not recommended, as it may interfere with the beneficial physiologic effects of treatment.
Cold laser therapy is now being offered by Dr. T., in addition to standard acupuncture needle techniques and electroacupuncture, to help animals with chronic pain, surgical recovery, delayed wound healing, and more.
Chinese herbal medicine
Chinese herbal treatments generally consist of formulas containing from four to twelve herbs. Pills, powders and tinctures are the most common forms used to treat animal patients. Herbals may be used in addition to acupuncture in order to support and prolong the therapeutic effect, or used by themselves to treat the disease pattern diagnosed by the practitioner.
Tui-na is a massage technique which incorporates elements of acupressure and chiropractic. Some techniques can be done by the owner at home in between treatment sessions to help move Qi, ease pain and make the patient more comfortable.