Tradition Chinese Veterinary Medicine

My little son was 2 when his father plopped him down on the floor with a litter of the cutest little Jack Russel Terrier puppies and told him he could take one home. This would be a “surprise” to me. hmmm As my ds tells it, all the little puppies were cute, but he immediately bonded with one little girl puppy, because he said that she needed him. So, of course, when his dad drove him home and he was all curled up sleeping with this little puppy, that was all she wrote. Heart melted. She would be ours. My son is 20 now. And she is still ours.

image from disney’s “A Bug’s Life”

What to name her? At the time, Disney’s “A Bug’s Life” was a favorite in our home. There is a scene where the Queen Ant picks up her pet aphid and says, “You’re such a cute little Aphie” … this name stuck and henceforth, our little JRT was Aphie.

Anyway, for most of her life, she has been a pretty healthy energetic girl. She has kept us laughing for 17 1/2 years. Her healthcare has been managed by a lovely conventional vet. Her diet has consisted of part commercial brand dog foods and part the things we eat, minus foods that are toxic to dogs, of course. The people foods in our home are real, unprocessed foods. There is a lot of broccoli, carrots, squash, kale, berries, oats, bananas, you know… regular real food. We also make chicken broth. We use free range whole chickens, wasting no part of the animal, slow cook with vegetables and a bay leaf, then strain the scraps and cool the golden broth. Oh how Aphie loves these days! She gets the scraps of carrot and any bits of chicken that we deem undesirable. And she is a happy girl.

Now that Aphie is elderly, she has different needs. She is not moving around as much as she used to, she can’t see the bubbles and flies that she used to love hunting. She is more jumpy, a little fearful, and her mind may be slipping. Don’t tell her that I told you that. I am looking for appropriate ways to manage her health so that she continues to be a happy little girl.

Enter Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine

So recently, I stumbled across a local vet that uses an integrated approach to animal care. They take the best of western conventional medicine and practices and combine this with traditional Chinese medicine. They use food as medicine, as well as conventional medicines. They use herbs. They perform acupuncture, which the animals love because it releases endorphins and makes them feel great. I have been unable to find a local Doctor of TCM for myself, but now I have found one for my dog! Maybe I will make an appointment at the vet for myself! 🙂 Yes, we had to check this out.


To be candid, I did have some reservations about this concept. Still, my love for TCM for humans made the prospect of TCVM (Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine) absolutely irresistible. However, TCM is as much art as science. It is based on thousands of years of observational study of the human psyche and how it relates to physical health. It is nuanced and fluid. A skilled physician of TCM can accurately diagnose a patient in moments. TCM is premised on the concept of 5 elements, or phases. Each human will identify with aspects of several or all phases, but will have one or two elements which are dominant. A human becomes the element(s) they are, as a result of their response to a significant event early in life. You can read a very brief explanation of this hereChinese Medicine 101.

How can this possibly be applied to animals? Dogs do not think and process information as humans do. Dogs and cats do not even think like each other! So how can they identify with the elements of Chinese Medicine? Maybe this vet is not legit… hmmm

Field Trip to Sun Dog Moon Cat

(Sun Dog Cat Moon Website)


Upon arrival for our appointment, I already love the place. The office looks like a little house set in a beautiful grassy, flowered scenic little space. There is nothing clinical about the place. It is warm and peaceful. I could hang out in this yard all day and be perfectly content. Aphie loved it too, by the way.

Inside, we were greeted and put in a little examination room with a view of the pretty yard. Aphie sat on my lap. We got her stats and talked about her health history… nothing unusual here. When the vet comes in, she does not remove Aphie from my lap. Now, because Aphie is elderly, she is fearful and is no longer above snapping at people if she feels the slightest threat. Mostly she does this when she is in my lap. She is very protective. The vet sat down beside us and began massaging Aphie. I warned her this was not the best idea. But Aphie was cool with it! In fact, she got her whole examination, including a look at her little teeth while she sat in my lap.

With all this personal attention, still there was no mention of TCVM, which is what I came for, after all. So I inquired about this. The vet then brought out her charts with the elements, only she called them “constitutions”. Turns out that animals are born with their constitutions, unlike humans who quickly develop theirs based on early life experience. This is why breeds tend to have similar personalities and common health concerns. It is a very straight-forward system and valuable for diagnosis and treatment. Simple!

Here is the potential advantage of adding TCVM to pet care, based on my impression. Instead of standard treatments across the board which may or may not be needed or effective, care using this integrated approach is personalized. The “why’s” are explained. Now that I understand why Aphie has specific concerns, it is so much easier to treat her, without giving her unnecessary treatment with its own side effects.

Why this post is on a Food Blog

Just as food is used in TCM for people, a good diet is a vital part of animal health as well. We were given specific dietary recommendations. Turns out, they are pretty close to what Aphie already eats, with just a few tweaks. I have already made for her the basic crock pot food because I had almost everything in my fridge already. I did have to buy turkey (I chose humanely raised ground turkey). Also, we have no iodized salt in the house. We keep pink himalayan sea salt, generic sea salt, and kosher salt. No iodized table salt. This ingredient surprised me a bit.

This food cooked for hours, and the house smelled wonderful! I had to taste it. It is delicious. And Aphie scarfed up every last bit of her serving.


This was really easy! And eliminates all my worry about commercial food ingredients. Some of this will go in the fridge. The rest will be frozen so that we have easy meals ready to go. I think I will go ahead and freeze it in portions. I love a good make-ahead!

In my next post, I will share some recipe ideas from friends who also make their own dog food. Each dog is different, so it is important to consult with your own vet to be sure that you are providing your fur baby with the nutrition he or she needs.

Happy healthy day to you and your fur babies! 

In case you are a dog lover and would like to know… Aphie is doing great for an old girl. Her heartbeat sounds really good. She does have some skin issues, which we are addressing. She slept so soundly after her adventure to the TCVM vet, and was especially sweet all day. I really need to learn those massage techniques. I think the vet probably used her knowledge of acupressure points.

Per her TCVM diagnoses, she is a Fire (high energy, no surprise) with some Metal issues (skin), and some Water issues (fear) simply because she is in the last phase of life. We will be making it as happy and comfortable for her as possible. We love our funny little girl.

This blog does not provide medical advice. Please see your physician, or in this case your vet, for your healthcare needs.

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