A cat with diabetes. A dog with itchy skin. A horse with a pulled tendon. When our animals are ill or injured, they rely on us to interpret their pain. Try explaining to the vet what’s wrong with your animal without describing feelings and you may suddenly recognize the need for holistic pet care.
With laser surgery and digital radiography, mainstream medicine has made amazing advances, but it has yet to embrace an approach that considers health and well being beyond treatment of acute conditions. For many folks, sustainable pet care starts with “greening” a pet’s diet and exercise routines. But what about attending to their total physical and emotional health, especially as they grow and age? How can pet owners and their health care providers “hear” an animal’s health story?
In China, acupuncture and herbal remedies have been a mainstay of veterinary science for hundreds of years. Integrating Taoism and spiritual awareness into therapeutic practice is the norm rather than the exception. Given our culture’s rational biases, it’s often difficult to accommodate those approaches in American settings, where doctors must embrace a rigorous empirical training before they are licensed. Imagine finding a local veterinary practice that integrates the most advanced skills of western medicine with the deep understandings of traditional Chinese approaches.
The best training ground for great veterinarians who do complementary medicine is in Florida at the Chi Institute of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine, which has been working with doctors from all over the United States since 1998. Founded by Dr. Huisheng Xie, a third generation practitioner and veterinarian who also holds a PhD in neurophysiology, the Institute offers multiple certification programs that allow vets to develop their holistic skills alongside their prior medical training. According to Chi Institute administrator Barbara Lowell, “These are some of the best veterinarians in the world…and they take the gift of an open mind to people who will accept it.”
“Generally, the goals of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine and Western Veterinary Medicine are the same, both hope to promote health and to prevent disease,” says Dr. Xie, “They are merely two different ways of viewing the world, and each system has its own strengths and weaknesses. Western medicine deals well with acute diseases and can utilize advanced surgical techniques. TCVM can be beneficial for chronic diseases, especially those that Western medicine can only partially control, but not cure.”
As his former students will attest, Dr. Xie is particularly skilled at integrating these two approaches while simultaneously challenging the practitioners to expand their emotional, intuitional, and spiritual understandings of physical health. Veterinarians come from near and far to take courses that include acupuncture, herbal medicine and nutrition, and therapeutic modalities such as Qi Gong. They can order herbal remedies from Chi and consult with faculty on difficult cases.
While most people think of acupuncture as a great addition to medical care, one of the most innovative approaches is Tui-na, a mixture of acupressure, massage, and chiropractic techniques that focus on meridian points, reading an animal’s state (hot or cold), stretching limbs to remove discomfort, and promote the flow of Qi. From the newborn foal to the geriatric chameleon, Tui-na improves the muscular and skeletal systems and regulates organs and the nervous system.
If you live in the United States, finding a Chi Institute certified vet is easy through the website’s “vet finder,” which maintains an updated list of certified practitioners across the country. These vets are often the key to extending an animal’s life span, to alleviating pain or discomfort that simply cannot be treated by western medicine, and to give injured pets a new lease on life.
By Alice P. Julier