Saturday, January 8, 2011

Our Journey to TCVM (Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine)

When Jasmine came into our lives seven years ago, little we realized what challenges were lying ahead of us. Over the years, Jasmine has been plagued with multiple-dogs-worth health issues.

She was the largest female from the litter, which, we believed, would have also made her the healthiest. Were we ever wrong!

When we brought her home, her stools were not very good, but we figured it was from the change and it would sort itself out. 

Well, it did not. However, frequent vet visits didn't bring either an explanation nor a solution. Moreover, it seemed that we were the only ones worried about it, as the vets certainly were not.

Gullible owners as we were at the time, our worries eventually turned into acceptance.

Perhaps she just has a weak system and bad stools and poor appetite were normal for her.

But this issue was soon overshadowed by another.

As she turned about two years of age, every now and then she'd have a restless night. She would be panting and pacing around the house, asking to go outside (but for no apparent reason), scratching at doors and corners, and looking distressed.

It was upsetting, but it didn't happen very often and we figured that maybe she smelled or heard something outside that got her agitated.

Slowly, however, they had increased in frequency, intensity, and length. 

She was able to go this way all night! More vet visits and yet again no answers.

Figuring that perhaps her belly was upset I'd take her for walks in the middle of the night so she could walk it off. Sometimes it would help and sometimes it would not.

Nobody except me didn't seem to have been taking this seriously, possibly because I was the only victim who had to bear witness to the episodes, as we started calling them.

But, surprisingly, denial did not make them go away. 

In the spring of 2008, the episodes got so bad that I declared that neither her or myself can go on this way. We were going to the vet and we were not leaving until an explanation for this was found.

In desperation, the vet decided to check her thyroid hormone levels, and indeed they were very low. 

What I think today about running test for T4 only and not looking any deeper won't change the past. Fact is, however, that starting Jasmine on thyroid medication seemed to have resolved the problem.

Her episodes slowly faded and I was very relieved that finally an answer had been found.

My relief was short-lived.

In the summer of that year, Jasmine started limping on her rear left leg. As the lameness wasn't going away, it was discovered that she had a tear in her left crucial ligament and that the ligament in the right knee didn't look very good either. The recommendation was made for TPLO surgeries.

That's when I decided to finally take matters into my own hands.

In the process, we have found a new vet who is truly amazing and he diagnosed and fixed many of Jasmine's issues.

Her stool and appetite issues turned out to be a result of food allergies which by now had developed into eosinophilic gastroenteritis. With limited ingredient home-cooked diet there was an improvement in the stool quality, but not in the appetite.

More importantly, Jasmine's episodes had returned. 

Her thyroid levels were stable. Could it be that the medication helping was just a coincidence?

Determined to help her we started investigating. Blood test, urinalysis, more tests, x-rays ... all with no clear conclusion. Specialists (cardiologist, neurologist ...) at our teaching hospital reviewed her labs and a tape of one of her episodes and guess what they concluded? "It's probably just restlessness."

The one thing I KNEW it was not!

The best conclusions we could arrive to with conventional medicine were that it is either caused by pain from her IBD or pain from an abnormality that has been found in the spine in her neck. Solution? Either steroids or painkillers, with a coin toss in between those two.

We had reached a dead end. 

I believed that conventional medicine took us as far as it could and that if we want to go further we had to choose a different path.

I first heard of TCVM (Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine) some time back when I was researching alternative options for dealing with her bad ligaments. I talked to people who had great success using TCVM for treatment of various issues and became intrigued by the idea. I got my hands on Four Paws Five Diretions and studied the principles.

It was time to try something else and perhaps TCVM was a way to go. 

We talked to Jasmine's vet about my thoughts, explaining that we felt that he was a wonderful vet but limited by the tools he had available and that perhaps adding some different tools might be helpful. Of course, he would remain Jasmine's primary physician. He warned us not to put much hope into that but agreed that'd we consult with a TCVM vet.

After the TCVM exam, we did get our hopes up.

The TCVM vet came up with a diagnosis which did come with a treatment other than steroids or painkillers. We started a course of acupuncture and herbal supplements.

The herbs had a very strong scent and flavor and just the fact that Jasmine accepted them in her meals surely meant something.

Today Jasmine has beautiful stools (I celebrate every one of them) and ravenous appetite. 

Her episodes have not gone away completely yet, but they had been curbed, and there seems to be continuous improvement.

Her main vet does feel that including the TCVM treatment did bring visible improvement. 

We are hoping that eventually this issue might get resolved completely.

Jasmine is a constant challenge and a work in progress but we are glad we integrated TCVM into our efforts.

Related articles:
When Modern Medicine Doesn't Have The Answer: TCVM
Why Integrative Veterinary Medicine?
Four Paws, Five Directions: The Theory Behind The Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine
What To Expect During A Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine Exam 
Healing You DYourWith Food: More To Food Than Nutritional Value? 
Acupuncture In Not Voodoo


  1. I swear by TCVM, especially accupuncture.

    Our first experience was with our vet in the early 80's. He had gone to China to learn accupuncture and combined it with traditional veterinary medicine. He practices today as a Holistic vet. Anyway, he used accupuncture on a performance horse we had with a bad back. The horse went on to great achievments.

    I noticed that when our horse was treated he'd relax, lower his head and appear to be asleep. I have much the same reaction once the needles are in and the music playing softly, lights's very refreshing and relaxing...and the time passes too just want to stay there...each treatment you feel better and better.

    I feel sure that Jasmine will continue on her road to feeling better and behaving like a healthy dog. If I were you I would continue to follow the advice of the TCVM doctor and have him give her regular examinations and accupuncture treatment.

    If you want to know more about our personal experience with Chinese Medicine over the years,
    please email my privately at browndogcbr at live dot com.

  2. That is awesome, great to hear about your good experience with TCVM!