Traditional Chinese Medicine For Dogs

Traditional Chinese Medicine (also referred to as TCM) was developed centuries ago when agriculture was the main occupation of people worldwide and the bond between humans and the earth was much stronger as well as further clear compared to what exists in contemporary times.

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Therefore, for an uninitiated individual, the complexities as well as idiosyncrasies related to Traditional Chinese Medicine may at times put the common sense of this primeval healing system in the shade.

The philosophy of Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on the cadence of nature. It explains the internal arrangement of our body as the different elements, for instance, the earth, water, fire and metal. Moreover, the relations of the different organ systems with one another are assessed in terms like windiness and dampness.

If you wish to comprehend the intricacies of TCM, you should first forget about your Western cultural background for a while. In this age of super computers and advanced technology, which persuade us to keep ourselves detached from nature and separates us from the earth, it may appear to be too simplistic and even strange and possibly naïve to describe our body in terms of nature.

However, similarities between Traditional Chinese Medicine and the practical science followed by practitioners of veterinary medicine have actually been imbibed.

The prolonged existence of TCM notwithstanding, the fundamental theories of this ancient healing system are continue to be unclear to veterinarians with conventional orientation as well as dog owners.

However, it is ironic that nearly every one of them is acquainted with at least one most well accepted modality of TCM - acupuncture. What is surprising is that a number of veterinarians continue to practice acupuncture despite not having a profound perception regarding the values associated with this modality.

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Instead of merely treating the symptoms or expression related to a disease, it helps a medical practitioner to recognize the basic causes responsible for a disease when he/ she employs Traditional Chinese Medicine as a whole.

In fact, any individual who is practicing Traditional Chinese Medicine in its true sense is more an artist than a scientist. Typically, he or she will thoroughly examine the patient, who is the practitioner's canvas, to discover any indication of discord or illness.

Nevertheless, even the most unsophisticated practitioner may obtain positive results from this ancient therapeutic system, which has been perfected over thousands of years to manifest the fundamental truths as well as the primeval patterns, even though he or she may not be able to distinguish between maroon and magenta!

It is worth mentioning here that TCM is based on numerous interrelated theories, such as those akin to the body's functions that are cured by this ancient healing system, which have indistinct margins and often overlap one another - something that an uninitiated may find difficult to cope up with.

In fact, Traditional Chinese Medicine uses extremely simple words to describe very complicated concepts. However, as the practitioner gains knowledge, he/ she becomes further open to curing them as well as their animals.

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Several healing traditions are based on the theory that says there is a vital life force - the fundamental energy that fortifies each one of us. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, this vital moving energy is known as Q1 or Chi and is pronounced as "chee". Qi is not only present everywhere, but it also surrounds us always.

This animated energy comprises the world and it runs throughout the physical spaces - right from the backyards in our homes to our bodies. The purpose of TCM is to regulate the flow of this ubiquitous energy, as the proper balance of Qi in our body is responsible for promoting good health and wellness.


In TCM, it is believed that Qi flows throughout our body down the meridians. All the meridians in our body are interlinked and they regulate the health as well as functioning of the various parts of our body.

In case the Qi passing through any particular meridian is obstructed or unstable, such interruption in flow of energy may possibly result in malfunctioning of the different organs and body systems connected with a particular meridian and even diseases.

Altogether the dog's body encloses as many as 12 major meridians, each corresponding with an organ of the animal. In addition, all the meridians have a sister meridian each, and their energies synchronize. There are a number of acupressure points (also known as acupoints) on each meridian.

If the Qi is considered to be a river, these acupoints are docks along it. The acupoints are the specific places where the energy enters or exits the meridian. Majority of the acupressure points are to be found in the body surface area, which also has several nerve endings. Each of these acupoints also possesses electrical attributes.

However, it is not necessary that a point corresponding with a particular organ or system of the body will be located near it. Acupressure points can be classified differently. The different classifications include accumulation points, wherein Qi congregates and is also released.

In addition, there are alarm points that help a practitioner to identify whether the disparity in energy flow extends further than the meridians and also whether or not any specific organ is involved with the imbalance. There is another type of acupoint called the association point, which directly controls or is associated with an organ and has the aptitude to draw energy to that particular organ.

Yin and Yang

Akin to protons and electrons that form the composition of an atom, Qi is made up of yin and yang. Like protons and electrons are the positively and negatively charged particles respectively of an atom, even yin and yang are differing in every aspect. While yin is considered to be the female energy, which is calm and yielding, Yang is regarded as the male energy, which is insistent and unyielding.

Yin embodies darkness, stillness, the moon and water, while yang represents brightness, activity, the sun and fire. Their polarization notwithstanding, yin and yang are also independent of each other. In fact, their shared relationship is best obvious from the symbol that manifests yin and yang - a circle, which is half white (yang) and half black (yin).

In the heart or middle of the black portion of the symbol there is a tiny, independent white circle; while there is a little black circle in the hub of the white portion. Thus, this shows that yin as well as yang contains one another. In addition, both yin and yang are also considered to be incomplete in the absence of one another.

In effect, the yin-yang theory virtually infuses all the aspects of TCM. For instance, each of the dozen meridians contain yin as well as yang organs. It is important to note that the yin organs are dense and include the lungs and liver, while the yang organs are hollow or like cylinders and comprise the stomach and the small intestines.

Moreover, neither yin, nor yang is stable. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, both yin and yang are considered to be fluid and moving all the times inside an organ, a meridian and the body, in general. Hence, it is really a challenge for the practitioner to recognize the disparities in yin and yang and adjust as well as regulate them in such a manner that they facilitate the proper functioning of the body.

Five Element Theory

According to the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine, there exists a close association between the substances present in nature and the organ systems of the body. It is believed that the world includes five different basic elements, each of them having individual attributes and predispositions.

These elements include the earth, water, fire, wood and metal. In addition, each of these elements is also interconnected in an unavoidable and predictable cycle. In fact, Traditional Chinese Medicine recognizes two cycles in the world and also in the body. It believes that these five elements are transformed during these two cycles.

During the "Sheng" or the "Creative Cycle", fire reduces to ash, which forms the composition of the earth. Similarly, the earth causes geological formations that enclose metals. When these metals are heated up, they produce steam, which turns into water. In turn, water feeds the vegetations, enabling them to produce wood.

Consequently, this wood generates fire when it is consumed. The "Ko" or the "Control Cycle" involves the destruction of these five basic elements. While fire liquefies metals, the latter is used to chop wood. The wood that is chopped or felled drops on the ground, blocking the earth.

This results in a barricade on the earth and dams water. On its part, water extinguishes fire bringing us back to the commencement of the entire cycle. All this may seem to be perfectly simple, you may wonder if this has anything in connection with Chinese Traditional Medicine.

The answer is, all this is closely connected with this ancient healing system. TCM uses these five basic elements to categorize the organs of our body and the different meridians. In addition, the different seasons have a close association with these five elements.

As the practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine are aware of the manner in which these elements progress in each of the above mentioned cycles, they are able to pursue a similar pattern to find the manner in which the imbalances of yin and yang would be apparent in the body, subject to the involvement of the different organs.

The Eight Principles

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, a disease can be diagnosed employing various different methods, following the integral tools that are known as the Eight Principles or Eight Conditions. The Eight Principles include four pairs - four opposite set of pairs, to be precise.

These opposite pairs are the yin and yang; cold and hot; internal and external; and excess and deficiency. In a way, the last three groups or six doctrines are disused, as the first two - yin and yang, include all of them. In effect, the yin is cold, internal and deficient, while yang is hot, external and excessive.

However, while diagnosing, a TCM practitioner will employ all these principles with a view to get hold of an all inclusive picture as far as possible regarding the manner in which yin and yang manifest themselves in your dog.

In fact, a Traditional Chinese Medicine diagnosis is very detailed and involves the whole thing from a practitioner examining your dog to making queries related to the dog's lifestyle, including its home life, food preferences, sleeping habits, activity levels and elimination habits. In fact, the TCM practitioner will also listen to the pulse beat of the dog and observe its tongue.

Precisely speaking, a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine studies all the 12 pulses, each of them consistent with one meridian; the pace as well as the force of every pulse reveals the strength of the energy flow and its consistency or balance in the related meridian.

Apart from the pulse, the tongue also shows the dog's internal conditions. The color, shape and coating of the tongue help the practitioner to understand the manner of functioning of a particular organ.


Among all forms of holistic treatment modes, perhaps acupuncture is the best known as well as most popular in the medical circles, including human and veterinary. In fact, several conventional physicians as well as veterinarians have accepted the fact that acupuncture offers palliative benefits. They have also acknowledged that they may even recommend their patients to visit acupuncture practitioners to get respite from pain.

To a great extent, the acceptance of acupuncture is due to the fact that this mode of treatment is easy to understand, even within the Western medicine's framework. In fact, one does not have to understand the conception of Qi to be able to elucidate why acupuncture is effective, as it is possible to understand this mode of treatment even on a biochemical level rather than a genuinely energetic level.

According to the Western hypothesis, insertion of needles into acupoints helps to release various chemicals, counting endorphins, which are effective in augmenting blood circulation as well as invigorating the nervous system.

The term acupuncture has been derived from the Latin words "acus" denoting "needle" plus "pingere" meaning "to pierce." In fact, acupuncture has been employed on animals for several thousand years now.

According to available ancient records, practitioners used acupuncture on Indian elephants no less than 3,000 years ago! In addition, Chinese rock carvings dating back to 200 B.C.E. demonstrate ancient soldiers piercing their stallions with arrows to get them ready for enduring the harshness of battles.

In contemporary veterinary medicine, physicians use acupuncture for treating neurological disorders like epilepsy; hormonal imbalances; gastrointestinal disorders like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS); problems related to the reproductive system; allergies and many other conditions.

In fact, the list of health problems treated with acupuncture is too long to be mentioned in detail here. Perhaps, veterinarians and even physicians treating humans use acupuncture most frequently to treat musculoskeletal disorders like arthritis, slipped disks, hip dysplasia, and lameness.

In addition, this modality is also frequently used to cure behavioural disorders in animals like compulsive licking (which can often cause open wounds, called lick granulomas in medical terms), and a condition known as separation anxiety. It is worth mentioning here that acupuncture also aids in accelerating the healing process and, hence, this modality can also be employed following surgeries with a view to facilitate and speed up the recovery of your dog.

Like in any other aspect of our life, acupuncture is also not absolutely risk-free. For instance, there is some risk of developing infection from the needles used in acupuncture. Although practitioners always use sterilized needles, which are never reused, some risks are always there.

Although rare, broken needles also happen and in the worst instance, it may require a surgery to remove them from the patient's body. There are other possible risks too, such as puncturing an organ or even striking a nerve accidentally.

Perhaps the greatest worry related to acupuncture is whether the needles are hurting. Well, the answer to this is 'no.' Acupuncture treatment is never hurtful, unless the practitioner inadvertently hits a nerve or punctures any organ.

It has been seen that when a practitioner inserts a needle into a point, your dog may feel a trivial spasm, but it will not feel any kind of discomfort once the needle is inserted. In effect, there are several dogs for which treatment using acupuncture is quite relaxing and it may actually help them to fall asleep during the treatment.

Although the results of acupuncture treatments are usually instantaneous, you should give some time for the treatment to work. If you are providing acupuncture treatment to your dog, it is important for you to wait for at least seven or eight sessions or visits to the practitioner before coming to any conclusion. This period is essential to evaluate whether the acupuncture treatment is working for your dog or not.

Preferably, you should use acupuncture in the form of a maintenance therapy. In fact, there is a strong argument in support of using this modality as a maintenance therapy. Therefore, it is advisable that you use acupuncture on your dog prior to the problems or symptoms become noticeable.

Your dog's body functions even better when the flow of Qi is smoother. And when its body functions optimally, your dog is less at risk of developing imbalances. In such cases it is also unlikely that your dog will suffer from chronic imbalances of yin and yang, which may generally result in ailments and diseases.

However, it is a fact that that several race track horses are regularly subjected to acupuncture treatments, which forms a part of their health regimen, and helps to keep them fit and perform at their peak level.

It is possible that embracing acupuncture more broadly and in the form of a healing means will encourage veterinarians to start promoting this modality as a means to maintain the health and well-being of your pet or companion animal.

On the contrary, as more and more vets will learn the principles and techniques of acupuncture, they will, perhaps, they will develop a more profound and more spontaneous perception of this modality - a practice level that reaches further than just a "connect the points" frame of mind.

Although traditional acupuncture technique involves inserting needles into the acupoints located on the meridians, there are several other ways of using this modality - and some of these methods are more effective. A brief discussion on these different methods of using acupuncture is presented below.


Traditional acupuncture involves stimulating the acupoints by rotating the needles in a particular direction. In this type of acupuncture, the practitioner first inserts the needles into the points and subsequently pulses them using electric current with a view to provide stimulation.

A TCM practitioner may employ this technique on ailing dogs, which are suffering from acute pain or may be paralyzed, as stimulation using electric current is more effective on the acupoints. In other words, this acupuncture technique works more intensely on such dogs.

Laser acupuncture

As is evident from the name of this acupuncture technique, laser acupuncture involves stimulating the acupoints with infrared lasers. This acupuncture technique is often employed for animals, which veterinarians called "fractions". In other words, this form of acupuncture is used on animals that become touchy and aggravated when they are touched. Therefore, acupuncture needles are not used on them.


This form of acupuncture involves injecting a harmless, sterile liquid into an acupoint on a meridian and the pressure created by the liquid inside the body invigorates the acupoint. In this case, the liquid is a substitute of the needle.

Aqua-puncture is effective for dogs that do not sit in the same place or quietly for a long period that is necessary for a session of traditional acupuncture. A number of veterinary practitioners employ this form of acupuncture following treatment with a simple needle to heighten the effects of their treatment.

Various different types of liquids, including distilled water, a combination of vitamin B12 and saline water, and electrolyte solutions, are used for injecting into the acupoints.


Moxibustion is an altogether different form of acupuncture which involves burning of the herb mugwort (botanical name Artemisia vulgaris) to accelerate the movement of sluggish Qi. In Chinese medicine, mugwort is reputed for its warming properties.

This herb is known to expedite slow-moving Qi as well as invigorate the meridians. In moxibustion, a practitioner will burn mugwort while undertaking acupuncture treatment. The burning herb is placed right at the acupoint.

At times the herb is placed in contact with the acupoint directly by means of placing a piece of moxa (compressed mugwort) in the form of a cone directly on the acupoint and letting it to smoulder in the direction of the skin.

The other procedure, called indirect moxibustion, the burning moxa can be brought in contact with the needle for heating it. Irrespective of whether direct moxibustion or indirect moxibustion is used, it is essential to be caution and ensure that the heat does not burn the patient unintentionally.


This form of acupuncture makes use of ultrasound to kindle the acupoints. Generally, it only requires treatment for anything between 10 and 30 seconds at each acupoint. A number of animals are found to be suffering from chronic imbalances and they need continuous stimulation of the acupoints with a view to sustain the harmony of their body.

This type of animals may possibly benefit from a permanent acupuncture form known as golden bead implantation. Sonapuncture entails implantation of beads that are gold-plated and roughly the size of a poppy seed.

These gold-plated beads may also have a mild magnetic charge. Instead of gold-plated beads, occasionally practitioners also use gold wires. Acupuncture practitioners anesthetise the ailing dog and then inject these beads into the acupoints with the help of a 14-gauge needle.

Very much similar to acupuncture, implantation of the gold-plated beads is also extremely safe. Often these implants are used for treating problems related to the musculoskeletal system, for instance, arthritis, dysplasia, osteochondritis and spondylosis on the back side of the dog.

The effectiveness of this form of acupuncture largely depends on the age of the animal. In addition to the health problems mentioned above, gold-bead implantation is used to treat neurological problems like epilepsy as well as the Wobbler's syndrome.

Practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine, especially a vetacupuncturist, often use a procedure known as the "French pulse technique", which involves using their own pulse to identify the points that need to be stimulated using the beads.

While the vetacupuncturist holds the syringe loaded with the gold-plated beads just over the right acupoint, the practitioner will also feel if there is any increase in his/ her pulse or whether it is getting somewhat more inconsistent. Here is a word of caution:

Although gold-plated bead implant is an effective means to treat several health conditions, this procedure should never be used when an animal is suffering from tumours, cancer, or infected bones.

Using it in these conditions may actually be detrimental and promote growth of these diseases, as the beads have a feeble positive charge. Moreover, only veterinarians who are technically qualified to take on gold-bead implants should undertake this intricate procedure.


The principles of acupressure are similar to those of acupuncture, barring the fact that in acupressure the practitioner uses his/ her fingers instead of needles - a kind of "acupuncture lite."

It is worth mentioning here that financial constrains play a vital role while one is choosing between acupressure as the mode of treatment instead of acupuncture. People who are unable to pay for the acupuncture appointments every week can be trained about the acupressure points and they can easily apply the technique on their dogs at home. In any case, it is likely that the animal will feel more relaxed at home.

Very akin to acupuncture, practitioners also frequently use acupressure to treat musculoskeletal disorders as well as other diseases. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, acupressure is also an important means of treatment and useful in helping an animal in overcoming emotional issues like mourning over the death of a housemate or freight and apprehension.

However, there are some cautions regarding use of acupressure on animals, including your dog and nearly all of these are related to pregnant animals. Although only a handful of acupressure points can bring about premature labor, it is pertinent that you do not use acupressure through the entire period when your dog is pregnant.

In addition, you should also not perform acupressure on your dog soon after it has exercised vigorously or immediately after it has eaten a major meal. It is advisable that you should wait till the dog's body has calmed or it has digested the food - precisely speaking, when the energy of the dog is calm and has been disseminated.

You ought to also avoid performing acupressure on your dog if it is suffering from any infection or a contagious disease. Moreover, in case you suspect that your dog is not keeping well, you should take it to a vet for examination before you use acupressure on the animal.

Chinese herbs

In addition to acupressure and acupuncture, Traditional Chinese Medicine employs several other ways to balance as well as normalize the flow of Qi. Nearly all ancient civilizations made use of herbs, which formed a part of their folk medicine. However, it took several thousand years for the Chinese to develop as well as work on their use.

This is all the more true when we talk about the various different philosophies of TCM, including the Five Elements and the Eight Principles, to develop a genuine and multifaceted healing system.

Consequently, Traditional Chinese Medicine has assigned different attributes to different herbs. While some of these herbs are considered to be warm or hot, there are others that are known to be cool or cold.

In addition, there are other medicinal plants that have been assigned neutral qualities. In this way, the different herbs can be employed to facilitate the regulation of yin and yang and also restore the body's standard equilibrium.

Apart from the thermal properties of the herbs, Traditional Chinese Medicine also identifies that the medicinal herbs also have different directions - they move upward, outward or downward.

The complexity increases when we find that all these herbs are also categorized according to their function. For instance, while a number of herbs are known as sweating herbs, there are others that are classified as tonifying or harmonizing.

In TCM, herbs are generally not used individually, but the prescriptions of this ancient healing system mostly use them in a combination in a formula. Some names of such formulae are also interesting.

For instance, an herbal formula known as "Can Mao Ling" is employed to prevent viral infections; while another called "Tang Kuei" is used in the form of a blood tonic and often prescribed to boost up immunity as well as to support recuperation.

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