Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a medical system dating from the 16th Century that uses the balance between the yin and yang to prevent maladies and heal diseases. It takes into account the natural strengths and weaknesses of our bodies for a holistic approach to wellness.
Likewise, Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM), rooted in the same traditions, has been used to treat animals for about just as long. The veterinary practice focuses on the four branches of acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, Tui-na and food therapy to treat our feathered and furry companions, says Vet on Wheels’ Dr Jasmine Tan Kia Ming, BSc, BVMS, CVA.
Elements Of TCVM
Dr Tan tells us vets in Singapore have been practising TCVM for at least two decades, and it looks to pick up speed as more international courses become available. “I recommend pet owners to only look for certified TCVM veterinarians,” she stressed. Treatments, even for the same species or breed, may differ. Every animal has its own genetic makeup and disposition, and it takes a thorough understanding of your pet to make the right diagnosis.
“A good TCVM practitioner would require a detailed medical history of the pet, the environment it lives in, its diet, its interactions with other animals and people, its personal preferences, and others, to be able to administer the right treatment,” added Dr Tan. “Vets may prescribe different herbs or herbal formulas in disparate ways according to the diagnoses.”
Aside from going to a certified TCVM vet, another good way to assure yourself of quality care is by sourcing for your herbs through responsible and reputable sellers. TCVM vets are thoroughly schooled in the different Chinese herbs so they can prescribe medication that are safe for pet consumption.
They also monitor the pet after dispensing the medicines. “If a pet develops an adverse reaction such as diarrhoea, we have to double check our diagnoses. It may be likely the herbal concoction may not sit well with the patient, or it needs other supplementary herbs to fortify the initial prescription,’ explained Dr Tan.
Pain-Free Pain Management
Vets in Singapore are generally open to TCVM as an alternative treatment – especially when all other medical options have been exhausted. Besides medication, TCVM also prescribes Tui-na and acupuncture therapies where sterilised needles are inserted into the body to stimulate meridien points.
Tui-na is a massage technique applied to meridians and acupoints to improve the flow of ‘qi’, and correct imbalances within the organs. Acupuncture may look painful, but Dr Tan assures us it is very safe if it’s done by a certified veterinarian practitioner.
“TCVM has been practiced on animals in China for thousands of years,” she added. Pet owners are almost always pleasantly surprised when they see their pets do not mind the needles, Dr Tan mused.
While the different branches of TCVM can work independently, Dr Tan advised a more holistic approach. “Pet owners should understand that a combination of the four branches of treatment will increase the effectiveness of the TCVM programme,” she recommended.
Best Of East & West
TCVM is often seen only as an alternative treatment for neurological and orthopaedic medical conditions but that’s putting a cap on its efficacy, Dr Tan says. Western medicine works best to address acute problems but TCVM is an effective, holistic management of chronic conditions such as kidney disease, cancer, seizures of unknown origins, and more. It corrects the imbalances of the body to improve any medical condition or symptoms for an overall wellness programme.
At Vet on Wheels, Dr Tan practices an integrative mix of Western medicine and TCVM. Western medicine can provide immediate relief and kill any pathogens such as bacteria and fungi. Using Western diagnostic tools such as blood tests and X-rays can also help to get to the root of the issue faster. TCVM can then provide a follow-up regimen that addresses the body’s natural weaknesses. Veterinary science and TCVM need not be mutually exclusive.
Eat Your Way To Harmony
Your pets have been diagnosed as ‘heaty’ or ‘cooling’. Consult your vet to see if you can introduce some of these foods into their diet to bring balance to their ‘qi’. Before starting on a diet, always consult a certified TCVM vet.
Watermelon, celery, dark leafy vegetables such as kale, turnip greens, beet greens, spinach and broccoli are known to be cooling foods used to combat “heaty” animals. So are grains and proteins such as brown rice, millet, turkey, rabbit, clams, cod and whitefish. Cooked vegetables are better for older animals while younger ones can handle pureed raw greens.
To battle ‘cooling’, try recipes that include lamb, venison, chicken, buckwheat, ginger and cinnamon. These warming foods help the digestive organs work better to prevent ‘dampness’ but should be given in small doses, especially if the animal is already ‘heaty’.
Foods such as sweet potato, squash and pumpkin are general tonics that help the digestive tract. Sardines and liver (in small amounts) fortify blood and boost hair growth, among other benefits. Barley and mushroom are good bets against dampness while duck, broccoli and millet are effective against dryness.
About Vet On Wheels…
Vet On Wheels is a mobile veterinary clinic in Singapore, complete with an operational van for consultations and minor procedures.
They bring integrative veterinary medicine for pets – combining modern conventional medicine with alternative therapies. Their focus is on Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM).