Part of how I assess and diagnose a pet is by performing a Chinese Pattern Diagnosis. This TCVM approach is made up of the Five Element Theory, explained more fully in my soon-to-be-released book, plus the Eight Principles. They are divided into:
The “Where?”, which is determined using the Five Elements and Zang Fu Physiology and
The “What?”, which is determined by using the Eight Principles.
The Five Elements are the natural occurring elements and include Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. Each of these elements is associated with an organ system in the body.
Wood is associated with the Liver.
Fire is associated with the Heart.
Earth is associated with the Spleen.
Metal is associated with the Lung.
Water is associated with the kidney.
Each organ system works independently of the others, but also work together to promote or control the others. This relationship of “checks and balances” is based on the philosophy of how a family dynamic should work. For example, you’d understand me if I said that Wood supports and nourishes Fire, right? Sure, it makes sense. In the same way, Liver (wood) supports and nourishes the heart (fire). Here’s another example that helps guide the approach I take with pets: Water can control Fire, just as the Kidney controls the Heart.
There’s another, more specific way to look at the body systems and how they relate to each other. Many refer to the body systems as having a family dynamic. In the family dynamic, the parent supports and nourishes the child whereas the grandparent will help to control the grandchild. For instance, with this analogy, when we see a dog with a “wood” or liver condition, western medicine may simply treat the liver condition. The TCVM approach will immediately look for a pattern diagnosis, looking directly at the “water” system — or the kidneys, because, water nourishes wood.
Let’s give one more example. Let’s assume I’m looking at a dog with stomach upset, constant diarrhea. Yuck! Clearly, we want to stop the madness… quickly. Western Medicine (conventional medicine) offers us great pharmaceuticals that can help your pup feel better quickly. But, we also want to find out what caused the stomach upset.. so we can avoid it in the future. The Chinese Pattern Diagnosis tells us that fire (the heart) nourishes the earth (spleen and stomach) in much the same way as a parent nourishes a child. This dog could have a primary problem of the Spleen (GI tract) or the Spleen could be over controlled by the grandparent (in this case, the Liver) resulting in a suppression or deficiency. It’s also possible that the diarrhea is secondary to a parent that is over supporting its child (In this case, the heart in excess over nourishing the Spleen.) resulting in the symptom of diarrhea.
The Five Element theory helps us as veterinarians (and you as pet parents) to assign a particular organ system to the symptom expressed by the patient, and the Chinese pattern diagnosis helps us determine the root cause of any distress or disease your dog is experiencing… so we can treat the symptoms as well as the root cause.
** This information is excerpted with permission from Dr. Selmer’s soon-to-be-published book, The Best of Both Worlds: An Advanced Guide to Integrative Veterinary Care for Happy Healthy Pups.**