Introduction to Traditional Chinese Medicine for Cats

cat gives owner a high five

There has been a long history of using Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)  to treat humans and animals using the same theories, and its benefits are recently coming to the fore for our pets at home. As an alternative to conventional medicine, the number of veterinary  clinics offering Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) for cats in Asia and beyond are growing – and for good reason. Here’s what you need to know about the basics of TCVM for your cat. (Got the basics of TCM down already but want to know what ailments TCM are typically good for? Read our Benefits of Traditional Chinese Medicine article here) 

What is TCVM for pets?

The basis of TCVM is assessing the needs of your pet as a whole, rather than targeting specific diseases. TCVM’s holistic approach focuses on restoring balance. “Qi” or “Chi” represents the overall flow or energy or blood circulation throughout the body. The key is identifying imbalances within a being’s Qi based on the philosophy of yin and yang – if the body loses its balance (deficiency, or excess) due to a certain factor (heat, coolness, dampness), the disordered body leads to illness. 

TCVM is therefore considered a long-term, preventative approach to pet healthcare. It highlights the importance of prevention, allowing animals to live longer through alleviation of pain, and enhancing wellness at any stage of your pet’s life. 

What are the main types of TCVM treatments for cats?

Like how different pills are for different conditions, TCVM is a multi-modal discipline, containing various aspects that work together for collective results. TCVM can also be combined with Western veterinary medicine to ensure your cat reaches full recovery.

1. Acupuncture

The practice of acupuncture relies on the idea that there are various meridians through the body – you can picture these as routes on a map. Acupuncture involves the stimulation of specific acupuncture points (you can picture these as bus stops) located through major nerves and muscle groups for blood circulation (easing the traffic). Once stimulated by fine needles, certain acupuncture points can encourage blood flow, or hormone release such as endorphins to alleviate pain locally, or send signals to the brain to alleviate pain generally. Aside from needles, acupuncture points can also be stimulated using electric needles or acupressure. 

2. Herbal medicine

Chinese herbal medicine is tailored with the purpose of restoring balance. Herbal medicine provides gentle treatment that can be used in conjunction with conventional medications. In contrast to Western medicines that seek to achieve results and suppress symptoms immediately, Chinese herbal medicines require continuous intake over a longer period of time to see results. However, because it is concocted from natural ingredients, it can take less of a toll on your pet’s metabolism, so it is ideal for cats who have developed a weak immune system from age. 

3. Food therapy / dietary therapy

Following on from the aim to correct disharmony, veterinary food therapy involves practitioners selecting specific food based on their energetic properties. Food therapy can be used during season changes or when your cat goes through physical stress. Food therapy aims to ease the transitions of climate extremes to strengthen your pet’s immune system. Some common ingredients include goji berries and ginger.

4. Tui-na (Body massage)

Tui-na is a form of therapeutic massage that aims to promote circulation through activating acupressure and chiropractic techniques. Like acupuncture, it relies on the knowledge of the animals’ meridians and pain points. However, you should take into account that this method cannot be used for cats who are already extremely weak from age. 

Read more about how Traditional Chinese Medicine can bring benefits to your cat, what diseases it can treat and what you might expect during a TCVM appointment more on our blog here.