Friday, April 30, 2010

What To Expect During A Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine Exam

The TCVM exam is quite different from what we're normally used to. While the individual experience might vary with different practitioners, most things should be the same.

The first thing Jasmine noticed as she walked in our TCVM vet's exam room was the lack of an exam table! Yay! A good reason to like the place! Instead, our TCVM vet has a little bed in the room, which Jasmine finds very comfortable.

Be prepared for your first TCVM exam

Expect the initial TCVM visit to last about an hour. A good deal of this time will be spent going over your dog's history and behavior. Yeah, a good reason to have a comfy bed for the dog! Jasmine thinks that it is a lovely idea.


Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine pays detailed attention to your dog's history of medical issues, habits, quirks and preferences. They are all important clues your TCVM vet will include in the diagnosis, however trivial they might seem.

Does your dog prefer firm or soft surfaces? Does he seek cool or warm places to rest? Does he chase bunnies in his dreams? What symptoms did you notice in your dog and when do they most likely occur? All these things are relevant. The more observant you are about your dogs habits and behavior, the more helpful it will be to the diagnosis. You might want to jot down some notes before your visit.

With the large number of Jasmine's issue we are keeping a detailed chart that includes a number of details. Sometimes it is hard to rely on memory alone. Such a chart will also be a good indication of the progress your dog is making.

If you have any recent blood tests and x-rays, bring them with you also.


There is very little probing and prodding during the TCVM exam though a stethoscope does come into play. Another thing Jasmine truly appreciated – no thermometer!

Your TCVM vet will thoroughly observe your dog. He will watch your dog's behavior during the visit. In Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine emotional response is linked to the condition of different organ systems. He will asses your dog's skin and coat, eyes, tongue, body shape and constitution, muscle tone, and gait.

Tongue diagnosis

This is quite fascinating. There is a whole science behind how different areas of the tongue are a reflection of the state of respective internal organs. The tongue shape, color, texture and coating provide an amazing amount of information. Just as the eyes are windows to the soul, the tongue seems to be a window to the body.

Sounds (auscultation)

Your TCVM vet will listen to the chest the same way you're familiar with. The force and character of the breathing are also taken into account. Sounds your dog makes when moving, such as grunts, groans or whines are considered as well.

Physical exam (palpation)

This is seemingly a more typical part of the exam. Your TCVM vet will feel the abdomen and limbs, evaluate your dog's pulse and test what are called diagnostic points.

The pulse diagnosis is also quite complex. There are as many as seventeen pulse qualities to be evaluated in TCVM exam! The diagnostic points are, simply put, acupuncture points used in diagnosis. Each of them corresponds to a respective internal organ. Sensitivity at particular points indicates problem in the corresponding organ.

If a sensitive point is touched, your dog might growl or snap. This is quite normal and your TCVM vet is ready for that.

Scent (olfaction)

This part I was really looking forward to seeing! But our vet was very subtle about it, probably after enough 'less educated' owners weirded out. What a disappointment!

The olfaction part of the TCVM exam consists of checking your dog's eyes, nose, mouth and ears for odors. This is also quite fascinating. Problems in different organs present with typical smells.

Dogs can often detect cancer or other disease, I'd have to assume mostly by smell. Infection smells like grapes, diabetes comes with fruity sweet smell … In this case the roles are reversed.


This is roughly what you can expect when taking your dog to a Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine practitioner for your initial consultation. After the thorough exam, your TCVM vet will fit all the pieces of the puzzle together and come up with a treatment plan, which might include food therapy, massage, acupuncture and herbal therapy.

If you want to learn about the Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine exam in detail, check out the Four Paws, Five Directions: A Guide to Chinese Medicine for Cats and Dogs by Cheryl Schwartz, DVM.


The Chi Institute of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine

Related articles:
When Modern Medicine Doesn't Have The Answer: TCVM
Four Paws, Five Directions: The Theory Behind The Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine
Healing You Dog With Food: More To Food Than Nutritional Value?
Acupuncture In Not Voodoo

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