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Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine Basics


Introduction to Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine Theory


Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) has been used to treat animals in China for thousands of years. TCVM developed by trial and error as people sought a way to diagnose and treat common problems in their domestic animals, especially horses and farm animals, as these species represented their livelihoods. This process began in pre-historic times and continues to the present day; throughout history TCVM has grown through the the incorporation of new information, including modern Western medical research and diagnostics. TCVM, also called Eastern Medicine, believes in balance and energy, and practitioners recognize animal diseases as an imbalance in the body. The body is an integrated, energetic structure and a disturbance of energy flow creates disease processes in the entire organism.


When a disease pattern is identified, TCVM can restore balance and health by helping the body regulate itself. Diagnostic "tests" performed by TCVM practitioners include pulse palpation, tongue evaluation, specific acupuncture point palpation, and history. The theoretical aspects of TCVM which practitioners use to make diagnoses and treatment plans include: Yin and Yang, Meridians, Qi, Zang-Fu Organs, and Five Elements.


Yin and Yang is symbolized by the above Tai diagram. This symbolizes harmony in the universe. The circle represents the universe and is equally divided into Yin (black and female) and Yang (white and male). They are continuously merged since a small circle of Yin is within Yang and vice versa. The Yin descends to nourish Yang, and Yang rises to support Yin. Yin and Yang compose and divide all things yet they cycle unceasingly in the state of eternal transformation. An imbalance of Yin and Yang can lead to disease, while supporting the Yin-Yang balance leads to health & recovery.


The Qi is the force or energy that controls the harmony in any living body. Qi has been referred to as the vital force or life energy that activates and maintains the life process. Most of the Qi can be replenished from proper nutrition, regular exercise, and the environment. Certain types of Qi cannot be replenished since they are only formed during conception. TCVM manipulates and regulates Qi flow through the Meridian channels. Qi can be accessed through the various acupuncture points on the body.


The Meridians are pathways by which Qi and Blood circulate throughout the body. The pathways are not physically visible. However, they unify all parts of the organism, connecting the internal organs with the external body, thus maintaining harmony and equilibrium. Along each meridian, there are special points called acupuncture points. These specific points are used as acupuncture diagnostic points and as treatment points for diseases because they can access the Qi in that Meridian, and therefore have an action within the body. Acupuncture points are often located in depressions between muscle groups, tendons, ligaments, or bones. The TCVM practitioner palpates these points for sensitivity or reaction as part of his or her physical exam for each patient. Active points may be hot or cold, swollen or depressed, or painful. The animal being examined will indicate which points are active with a behavioral response, such as turning to look at the practitioner, flinching, or even trying to bite or kick. Certain points are associated with special functions within the body, and are therefore frequently used in treatment. For example, Bladder 11 (on the back near the shoulder blade) is the Influential Point for Bone and is often used to treat any condition of bone in the body, such as arthritis or hip dysplasia. In horses, certain points are known to indicate lameness or pain from a specific area of the body, for example an active Gallbladder 20 (a point located on the poll behind the ear) often indicates pain in the hind leg on the opposite side. Through modern research, acupuncture points have been found to be located in areas of increased capillary & nerve density. Stimulating these points, by needling or other means, affects the Qi in the point, in the Meridian, and in its associated organ. Point stimulation also causes increased blood flow to the area, changes in nerve conduction, and the release of natural molecular substances, such as neurotransmitters, antiiinflammatory molecules, and cell signaling molecules.


The Zang-Fu Organs are the internal organs; each is essentially Yin or Yang. An animal's health depends upon the balanced function of these organs in themselves and within the whole body system. The Fu, or Yang, organs are hollow organs of the body. Fu organs function to absorb nutrients and eliminate waste products. The Fu organs are the stomach, small intestines, large intestine, gall bladder, bladder, and triple heater. The triple heater is a Chinese Fu organ which represents the pathway of movement from the upper body (chest) to the lower body (abdomen), but does not have an anatomical representation. The Zang, or Yin, organs are solid organs of the body. Zang organs process the absorbed nutritive substances and store the metabolic products. The Zang organs are the liver, spleen, kidney, heart, lung, and pericardium. Each of the Zang-Fu organs is represented by the Meridian system on the external portion of the body. All of the body organs have functions within Chinese medical theory that do not necessarily correlate to accepted Western models of organ functions. For example, the Spleen is responsible for digestion in Chinese medicine, however it's physiologic function is actually to store & filter blood as part of the immune system.


The five elements involved in TCVM are the elements of the natural world. The elements are Metal, Water, Wood, Fire, and Earth. The Zang-Fu organs are categorized by these, and therefore, the elements describe the nature of the Zang-Fu organs with their inter-relationship between the body and the natural world. For example, Liver is a Wood organ, Heart is a Fire organ, Stomach is an Earth organ, Lung is a Metal organ, and Kidney is a Water organ. The five element theory is yet another way to describe and understand the interrelationships of various organs & systems in the body. Five element theory can be used to balance the body.TCVM is a complex system of medical theory to explain, diagnose, and treat disease. Due to this complexity, it is a very adaptable and individualized system. TCVM diagnosis and treatment is a process through with the practitioner, the owner, and the animal progress together.

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