It’s not uncommon for pet parents to wonder why I’m asking the questions I ask… why I do what I do… during my comprehensive examination of their pet. This is because they’re used to a veterinarian placing their pet on the exam table, asking questions about urination (for example) while they take the animals’s temperature and then listens to the heart, bowels and palpating the abdomen for a bit. The focus of the visit is to address clinical symptoms. I do all of this as well. However, my training in Traditional Chinese Medicine allows me to go deeper… to uncover not just the symptoms themselves, but the source of the symptoms.
This is why I will also smell your pet — looking for any unusual odors that may be coming from his eyes, ears, nose, and mouth — while asking additional, seemingly unrelated questions.
- Does your pet like to sleep on a cool surface, or someplace warm?
- Does he prefer sleeping on something soft and fluffy, or more firm?
- What are her favorite foods?
- Are there any behavioral changes you’re seeing?
- When did this behavior begin… and how often are you seeing it?
Let me share with you a farming example, because I think it may be the best way to capture the TVCM (Traditional Veterinary Chinese Medicine) approach to your pet’s health. If a farmer is noticing his crops aren’t thriving, he can’t simply treat the soil. He must look at the entire farm’s systems. He must consider whether or not the farm next door is over-spraying weed killer onto his crops. He must look for symptoms of animal / pest destruction… and then –based on additional symptoms — determine which animal is the likely culprit, so he can respond accordingly. He must consider environmental factors such as rain, heat, sunshine, and wind. He must consider soil quality, as well as timing of each planting. In short, he looks at everything in order to most effectively farm his land.
The Traditional Veterinary Chinese Medicine takes the same approach, looking at the body as a small part of a big universe. We don’t simply zero in on — and then treat — a symptom. We look for underlying causes so we can improve the overall health of your pet and eliminate future problems from arising.
Chinese medicine — incorporated into every aspect of my practice — is built upon the following concepts:
- BALANCE. Often described as yin and yang, we know that the ideal health can only be found in balance. For your pet to maintain good health, its body — and all its bodily systems– must be in balance. When one of the systems is not in balance, its function is compromised, which will cause imbalance in the other body systems. Each of the body systems relies on the others to maintain health and balance. We believe that the best way to treat illness is to support the compromised body system and restore balance in the body. Once the compromised body system’s function is restored, balance will be obtained, and the body will be able heal in a natural fashion. TCVM seeks to restore balance and harmony of the body systems within the body and the environment with the body.
- PATHOGENS or CAUSES OF DISEASE. There are seven general “TCVM” pathogens that may impact your pet’s health, and I’ll go over them in more detail in a later article. For now, I’ll just list them.
- WIND: Wind moves upward and outward. When it moves upward, you’ll see tremors and / or seizures. When it moves outward, it leads to itching.
- COLD: Cold damages the kidney yang and blocks the free flow of energy or “qi.” Cold leads to contraction and a “tightening up” in the body… often resulting in pain.
- HEAT: Heat damages body fluids and often is seen with “redness” in / on the body and — because it impacts the “shen” or spirit of the animal, can also result in behavioral disorders, phobias and anxiety.
- DRYNESS: Dryness damages the lung, as lungs like to be moist and dryness can lead to asthma, COPD. When dryness persists for too long, you’ll see dandruff and cracked paw pads, nose and skin. When you see these things, there is a blood deficiency.
- DAMPNESS: Too dry is bad and so is too wet. (Remember: BALANCE.) Damp damages the spleen. Like the lung hates dryness, the spleen hates being damp, leading to diarrhea, edema, moist oozing skin lesions; etc. Where there is discharge, there is dampness.
- SUMMER HEAT: Summer heat is a combination of damp and heat… sort of like it is here in New York during the summer months.
- TRAUMATIC INJURIES: These are things we can’t predict or prepare for that cause injury. A bite from another dog, being hit accidentally with a baseball by one of your kids, or even being hit by a car. Each of these things cause pain and where there is pain, “qi” explained in more detail below has been blocked and must be restored.
- QI or ENERGY. Qi is pronounced “chi” and we are all born with some qi. But we also obtain qi from the food we eat and air we breathe. The level and quality of your pet’s chi depends on physical, mental and emotional balance. Chi travels throughout the body on something called “meridians” and when the flow of chi is blocked, your pet will experience pain or illness. Acupuncture is always used to restore this flow of chi throughout the body.
- BLURRED LINES. Unlike in western medicine, there’s no huge line between mental health and physical health in TCVM, which is why your pet’s behaviors and mental state (being agitated, restless, etc.) are all taken into account in my physical examination of your pet.
I hope this gives you a snapshot of what goes into the everyday practice of our integrative veterinary clinic. We welcome your questions here — in the comments below — or via email or our Facebook page.