Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine: TCVM a different approach to disease

November 14, 2012 by · 3 Comments 

Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) is a medical system that has been used in China for thousands of years. In the US it has been used to treat animals since the 1970′s. Today acupuncture (one part of TCVM) has shown to be an effective treatment for many diseases both acute and chronic and really has shown to be very effective in treating pain and neurologic conditions thus making it a main stream treatment. TCVM includes using acupuncture, Chinese herbs, Tui Na (Chinese massage) and food therapy to treat the body to promote the body to heal itself.

Veterinarians can learn acupuncture and other TCVM modalities at one of the veterinary schools that offer programs –  Colorado State University, Tufts University or the University of Florida; or they can take a certification course offered by IVAS or the Chi Institute. The Chi Institute offers the most comprehensive programs for TCVM including all of the modalities and advanced courses up to and including a Masters Degree in TCVM offered in conjunction with South China Agricultural University. For this reason I choose the Chi Institute for my certification. I have considered pursuing the Master Degree program.

TCVM has changed considerably since its inception in China back when it was primarily used to treat horses and farm animals. Today it is used for those animals and also dogs, cats, and birds. Much has been learned about acupuncture and TCVM through the study and treatments of these companion animals. Here in the US TCVM is used many times, as it is in my practice, in conjunction with other treatments such as chiropractic, western herbs, nutritional supplementation and rehabilitation therapies (laser, electrical stimulation, and exercise). It is exciting to be part of a medical field that although has been around for 3000-4000 years is changing and expanding due to scientific advances and research and more owners being accepting of the treatments. I look forward to many years of treating my patients with TCVM.

The basic premise of TCVM is rebalancing the body to allow it to heal itself. A diseased body becomes out of balance. In TCVM some of the cause of disease is because the body is out of balance and in other cases the body becomes out of balance by an external force, such as a traumatic accident. In either case TCVM can be used hand in hand with western allopathic medicine to help the body recover from disease or trauma. They come from the disease from opposite aspects and can meet in the middle due to a common cause – to heal the patient. Western medicine is great at treating acute problems TCVM is great at treating chronic problems that western medicine has difficulty in curing. TCVM has little to no side effects. Western medicine is far superior in diagnosing due to the technological advances. An integrative approach works wonderfully for the patient because you can get the best of both worlds with superior diagnostics and treatment that has less side effects. Treatment that can approach a disease from both aspects that of treating the disease and that of helping the body heal.

One of my first cases in using TCVM was Bear – Canine Case of the Week: Bear and Cervical IVDD I hope I have many more successful cases such as Bear. He is still a patient and is doing well.

About Dr Daniel Beatty
An Infopreneur with a Veterinary Medicine degree.

  • Craig Godeke

    Is there sufficient evidence to back up your enthusiasm about TCVM? For example, acupuncture in animals, are there convincing studies validating its efficacy?
    Also, is there really a difference between “rebalancing the body to allow it to heal itself” and just waiting it out?

  • Craig, glad you asked because yes there is. A quick search on PubMed reveals 220 studies related to “acupuncture in dogs” and 3485 studies related to “animal acupuncture” and just like other medical studies some show efficacy and some do not. Here is a 10 year study on a couple specific acupuncture points – and one of the more recent published studies in the Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association comparing surgery, medical management and using electroacupuncture for treatment of disk disease in dogs –

    As for your second question my answer is “it depends”, because in many cases there is no “waiting it out”. Animals that have a chronic “incurable” disease do not get better by waiting it out. Acupuncture and other TCVM modalities have repeatedly shown to be effective in helping these animals and anecdotally resolving some of these “incurable” diseases. I personally have seen a few “miracles” in my cases as have many other veterinary acupuncturists. For acute curable cases sure you can wait it out but why would you when you have a modality that can resolve the problem quicker and with less pain?

    Lastly the course offered at Colorado State University called Medical Acupuncture for Veterinarians is a scientifically evidence based program focusing on neuromodulation.

    An excerpt from that page – Medical Acupuncture for Veterinarians (MAV) is the premier program that provides critically evaluated, scientifically based, and evidentially informed instruction in acupuncture and related techniques such as laser therapy and massage. Its comprehensive and well-orchestrated curriculum guides students methodically through a fact-based format beginning with neuroanatomy, neurophysiology, and neuromodulation. MAV then builds upon this foundational medical material based on current thinking and modern medical paradigms to teach approaches that integrate scientific, medical acupuncture and related techniques (SMART) into daily patient care.

    Thank you for reading.

  • Thanks for the quick and thorough reply.

    I had a quick look at the 10-year acupuncture study and it seems pretty neutral. Nevertheless, it’s good to see a movement to broaden the treatment options, and submit these options to evidence-based studies.