What is TCVM?

Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) is an offshoot of its longstanding human counterpart, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which has been practiced for thousands of years. It incorporates a number of techniques- called modalities- including acupuncture, herbal therapy, tai chi, qi gong, food therapy, Tui-na (similar to acupressure), cupping and massage. Most of these are extremely safe and can be very effective, especially in combination.
Acupuncture has virtually no systemic side effects, so it is particularly helpful for dogs in poor health.
Herbal therapy can potentially have side effects, so a thorough knowledge of herbal therapy and herb-medication interactions is necessary to practice it safely.
There have been some, but not enough, good studies on many different TCM/TCVM practices. It is a fairly active area of research. Acupuncture has generally been the most studied, and is actively studied today. Tai chi is currently being studied as a possible alternative to traditional cardiac (heart) rehabilitation programs in human medicine

At BVG, we currently offer acupuncture, Chinese food therapy, and stone/crystal therapy with Dr. Lisa Fiorenza.

What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese treatment method that involves placing very small needles into the skin and underlying tissue at specific points along the body to treat a variety of issues. The needles typically sit in the area for 10-20 minutes at a time to stimulate the tissues surrounding them. This stimulation promotes blood flow and releases chemicals such as endorphins that reduce pain and inflammation, and promote healing. From the traditional Chinese Medicine perspective, the needles stimulate the flow of Qi (pronounced chee) and Blood through the meridians to remove blockages where the Qi and Blood are unable to move- more on all that a little later. Blockages are considered to be sources of pain and disease. 

In addition to dry needling (acupuncture needles by themselves), there are a few other methods of stimulating the acupuncture points. Sterile liquids or medications can be injected into the points (aquapuncture) to give a slightly longer-lasting effect. Electrical stimulation can be applied to the needles while in the points with an E-stim (electrical stimulation) unit, promoting a deeper and longer-lasting effect. The herb moxa can be lit and held over the acupuncture points to warm the intended points, if needed. 


What is it good for?

One of the basic tenets of TCM is that the body's vital energy (qi- pronounced chee) is circulating through channels called meridians with branches connected to all bodily organs and functions. Because of this link between the body surface and the deeper organs, acupuncture can be helpful for a wide variety of issues and illnesses. It is often best known for its impact on painful orthopedic conditions such as arthritis, back problems, and other soft tissue disorders. This is also one of the most actively studied uses of acupuncture. However, acupuncture and other TCVM modalities can be used to treat any condition ranging from preventative health to organ dysfunctions to allergies. These treatments are often used in combination with allopathic (Western) medication, but some issues may respond to TCVM alone.


Do the animals stay still?

Most animals respond well to the actual treatment! The needles are small enough that there is very little pain from insertion in most locations. Some pets aren’t fond of points around the paws or head, which the practitioner can avoid if necessary. Many pets will lie down and relax once the needles are placed, and some even fall asleep during their treatment!

How many sessions will they need?

I recommend at least 3 sessions, typically 2 weeks apart, to get a good feel for your pet’s response to acupuncture treatment. Some patients and some issues will respond quickly (seeing a response after just one treatment), while others can take up to 6 treatments to see significant results. Many patients will have visible improvement within 3 treatment sessions. Extremely chronic (long term) conditions and internal issues (organ dysfunction) will typically respond more slowly than more “superficial” issues such as arthritis and other pain conditions. Additionally, for more chronic issues, while we may see results after 3-6 sessions, many pets need continuing sessions to maintain their comfort.

My story

I turned to integrative medicine as a patient and then as a practitioner slowly over the course of many years. My initial exposure to holistic medicine was through my yoga community, and I eventually began to trial and error different modalities for my own health issues when conventional medicine didn't help.

My first foray into integrative medicine was aromatherapy, the practice of working with essential oils, which I successfully used for my chronic pain condition. It’s still one of my favorite methods today, and I use it for myself, my pets and my patients. In addition to aromatherapy, I have personally experienced reiki, acupuncture, Chinese nutrition therapy, Chinese herbal therapy, Ayurvedic medicine, stone/crystal therapy, physical therapy, chiropractic, massage and other myofascial techniques, among others. Most of these methods all have two things in common: 1. They look at the body as a whole, rather than dissecting out and dealing with each system individually, and 2. They look for and treat the root cause of disease, rather than the symptoms.

Through my experiences, I came to feel strongly that a holistic approach including a number of different Eastern and Western techniques tailored to the individual patient is the ideal healthcare of the future. This is called multimodal medicine, which allows the practitioner to reduce medication usage, thereby reducing unwanted side effects, while improving (or curing) symptom management.

© [Lisa Fiorenza], 2021. No part of this page may be reproduced in whole or in part in any manner without the permission of the copyright owner.