Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine: Our Journey to TCVM

What do you do when you run out of options? You look for new approaches.

I am not one to give up. When I exhaust mainstream possibilities, I become open to unorthodox and unusual solutions. I look for answers anywhere they might be found.

I first learned about Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine in one dog health forum. It had some members who were avid advocates of the modality. They had dogs with seizure disorders, and TCVM helped them. Later, I got to know some integrative veterinarians.

I became curious, and it inspired me to grab a copy of the Four Paws, Five Directions book to learn more. While the approach was alien to me, it seemed that it could only help and not cause any harm. The risk versus reward assessment was in favor of delving deeper and giving it a try.

Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine: Our Journey to TCVM


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

Jasmine was the largest female from the litter, which made us believe that would have also made her the healthiest. Were we ever wrong!

Ever since we brought her home, her stools were not very good. However, we figured it was from the change, and it would sort itself out. It did not. However, frequent vet visits didn’t provide either an explanation or 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.

New problem

Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine: Our Journey to TCVM

As Jasmine turned about two years of age, 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 often. We figured that maybe she smelled or heard something outside that got her agitated.

Slowly, however, they had increased in frequency, intensity, and length. Jasmine was able to go this way all night!

More vet visits and yet again no answers.

Figuring that perhaps it was related to her belly upsets, 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.

Denial doesn’t solve problems

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.

Further reading: Dog Symptoms: Recognition, Acknowledgement, And Denial

The following spring, Jasmine’s episodes got so bad that I declared that neither she nor I could go on this way. We were going to the vet, and we were not leaving until we got answers.

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

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

Further reading: Euthyroid Sick Syndrome in Dogs: When Is Hypothyroidism not Hypothyroidism?

Jasmine’s episodes slowly faded and I was relieved that finally an answer had been found. My relief was short-lived.

Yet another new problem

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 was the final straw that made me 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 had developed into eosinophilic gastroenteritis. There was an improvement in the stool quality with a limited ingredient home-cooked diet, 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?

The diagnosis didn’t fit

Determined to help her, we started investigating. Blood test, urinalysis, more tests, x-rays … all with no clear conclusion. Specialists (cardiologist, neurologist …) at the teaching hospital reviewed Jasmine’s 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 at 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.

Time for a new approach

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 that did come with 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.

The result was Jasmine with perfect stools and a ravenous appetite. It curbed her episodes. She was a different dog. Her main vet conceded that the TCVM treatment did bring visible improvement. 

Modern veterinary medicine is amazing. But it doesn’t always have all the answers.

Related articles:
Why We Resorted to TCVM: When Modern Medicine Doesn’t Have The Answer
Four Paws, Five Directions—The Theory Behind The Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine
TCVM Consultation: What To Expect During A Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine Exam
TCVM Food Therapy: Healing Your Dog With Food—More To Food Than Nutritional Value?

Further reading:
What is Traditional Chinese Medicine?

Categories: Alternative treatmentsConditionsIntegrative veterinary medicineTraditionad Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM)

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Jana Rade

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience.

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