Alternative Medicine/Complimentary Medicine
There is a dramatic shift in the way we approach and treat animal diseases today. This new approach, commonly referred to as “Integrative Medicine,” uses the traditional techniques of Ancient Chinese Medicine and combines them with modern Western Medicine to provide the best possible patient care.
Chinese Medicine Theory
Chinese Medicine is based on the Daoist worldview that the body is a microcosm of the larger surrounding universe. As such, the cosmic laws and forces that govern the external world also govern the body’s internal environment. Just as life-energy or “Qi” is an innate force of the universe, it too is a fundamental force of the body, driving its every action and transformation. Yin-Yang theory, which is central to Daoist philosophy, also features prominently in Chinese Medicine. This theory describes how opposing forces of the universe create and transform each other, and play a key role in the characterization of physiological function and disease.
The Ancient Chinese observed yearly cycles through five seasons, spring, summer, late summer, autumn, and winter, which they corresponded to the Wu Xing, or Five Elements, consisting of Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water. Just as the Earth cycles through these five seasons, the body, too, passes through the five phases in its own life cycle. In this way, a young pup is said to be in its Wood (or spring) phase of life, while an old mare is said to be in its Water (or winter) phase. Moreover, the bodily organs have also been mapped to the five phases, and the Five Element Theory is used to explain the functional relationships between organ systems.
Disharmony and Disease
In Chinese Medicine theory, disease is understood as an imbalance in the body, and a diagnosis is obtained through identifying the underlying “patterns” of disharmony. Pattern diagnosis differs from conventional Western medical diagnosis in that it takes into account not only disease signs but how these signs relate to the individual patient. This approach stems from the belief that the body is as an interconnected system of forces and functions so that disease and disharmony must be examined with respect to the whole patient. For this reason, Chinese Medicine is often regarded as more holistic than conventional Western Medicine.
Branches of Chinese Medicine
Once a particular type of disharmony or disease pattern is identified, treatment often proceeds through a combination of treatment modalities. Though the terms Chinese Medicine and acupuncture are often used interchangeably in the West, acupuncture is actually only one modality or “branch” of Chinese Medicine. There are actually four branches which include Acupuncture, Herbal Medicine, Food Therapy, and Tui-na (Qi-gong, a form of Chinese meditative exercise).
Acupuncture is a treatment that involves the stimulation of points, typically achieved through the insertion of specialized needles into the body. Acupuncture points typically lie along the body’s Meridian Channels along which Qi flows. Most veterinary acupuncture points and Meridian lines are transposed to animals from humans, though knowledge of some “classical points” defined on particular species have been retained and are used to this day.
Herbal Medicine utilizes herbal ingredients listed within the ancient Chinese Herbal Books in particular combinations or formulas to treat particular disease patterns. Herbal formulas are administered orally and are typically given in powder form to horses and other large animals and in tea pill or capsule form to cats and dogs.
Food Therapy is the use of diet to treat and prevent imbalance within the body. It utilizes knowledge of the energetics of food ingredients to tailor diets for individual animals.
Tui-na is a form of Chinese medical massage in which different manipulations are applied to acupressure points and Meridians to promote the circulation of Qi and correct imbalances within the organ systems.
- Musculoskeletal problems, such as arthritis, intervertebral disk disease, or traumatic nerve injury.
- Respiratory problems, such as feline asthma.
- Skin problems such as lick granulomas and allergic dermatitis.
- Gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea.
- Selected reproductive problems.
For large animals, acupuncture is again commonly used for functional problems. Some of the general conditions where it might be applied are the following:
- Musculoskeletal problems such as sore backs or downer cow syndrome.
- Neurological problems such as facial paralysis.
- Skin problems such as allergic dermatitis.
- Respiratory problems such as heaves and “bleeders”.
- Gastrointestinal problems such as nonsurgical colic.
- Selected reproductive problems.
In addition, regular acupuncture treatment can treat minor sports injuries as they occur and help to keep muscles and tendons resistant to injury. World-class professional and amateur athletes often use acupuncture as a routine part of their training. If your animals are involved in any athletic endeavor, such as racing, jumping, or showing, acupuncture can help them keep in top physical condition.
In general, acupuncture can be effectively combined with most conventional and alternative therapies. Certified Veterinary Acupuncturists have the comprehensive training, knowledge and skill to understand the interactions between different forms of treatment and to interpret the patient’s response to therapy.
The American Veterinary Medical Association considers veterinary acupuncture a valid modality within the practice of veterinary medicine and surgery.
- Your veterinary acupuncturists must be a licensed veterinarian.
- Your veterinary acupuncturist should have formal training in the practice of veterinary acupuncture.
In most countries, states, and provinces, veterinary acupuncture is considered a surgical procedure that only licensed veterinarians may legally administer to animals. A veterinarian is in the best position to properly diagnose an animal’s health problem and then to determine whether the animal is likely to benefit from an acupuncture treatment, or whether its problem requires chemical, surgical, or no intervention. Because of the differences in anatomy, and the potential for harm if the treatments are done incorrectly, only a properly trained veterinarian should perform acupuncture on animals. The proper training for a veterinarian would include an extensive post-doctoral educational program in veterinary acupuncture. The more your veterinarian knows about traditional Chinese philosophies and the western scientific basis for acupuncture the more you can be assured that your animals will be treated properly.
Have any questions about Alternative Medicine for animals? Please contact us for further information.