Many people find their way to Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine by way of seeking out acupuncture for their companion animals. Acupuncture is becoming more well-known because it yields favorable results in a great number of patients for a variety of ailments. Some well informed folks are attracted to this system of medicine because it can be utilized as preventative medicine. These folks see benefit in bringing their furry companions in for “tune up” treatments, which essentially are treatments to balance the meridians (energy pathways) to avoid illness.
There is so much more to this type of medicine than placing needles for acupuncture. Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine is comprised of 5 branches: 1. Acupuncture, 2. Chinese Herbal Medicine, 3. Food therapy, 4. Tui-na (gentle massage and manipulation), 5. Exercise. While each branch of medicine is very valuable as a sole treatment, the best results are seen when combining all branches. My teacher Dr. Xie always tells his students that a pet who is receiving Chinese herbal medicine each day is getting the same kind of benefit as receiving acupuncture each day. Combining all branches potentiates the benefit to the patient especially in particularly complex conditions.
In general, the typical protocol for any given patient is an initial consultation to determine the pet’s Chinese diagnosis, which is determined after a series of questions and an exam to include but is not limited to pulse quality, tongue color and characteristics, and reactivity to certain acupuncture points to name a few parameters. At this point, the treatment can be tailored specifically to the pet and a first acupuncture treatment is likely to be performed, Chinese herbal medicines will likely be prescribed, a food therapy list using food energetics principles will be created, and Tui-na may be discussed and demonstrated to be done at home by the caring pet parent. Typically, dogs are recommended to walk daily for at least 30 minutes if they are capable or less depending on their age and condition. Regular non-intense exercise tends to promote good health and good Qi. Cats can engage in play using toys and environmental enrichment rather than walking. These types of exercises for our companion animals is the equivalent to the human exercise forms of Tai Chi and Qi Gong.
The gold standard is to plan for one acupuncture treatment per week for 6-8 weeks to yield results for most conditions. There are exceptions to this, which may allow fewer acupuncture treatments to notice progress or more frequent treatments in more intense cases (like Wobblers disease). In most cases, acupuncture treatments are typically then reduced to once every other week potentially and tapered from there depending on the ailment. There is no one size fits all treatment plan.
As you may have surmised, Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine is a life style, which can be incorporated into daily life with dedication to promote overall health and quality of life for our companion animals. This system of medicine is a team effort with your veterinary acupuncturist, your beloved pet and your family.