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Chinese Veterinary Herbal Therapy FAQs



 

 Chinese Veterinary Herbal Therapy

Background

Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM, aka zhong-shou-yi) is a principle branch of the complementary and alternative medical system in the veterinary profession. It includes a range of traditional therapeutics originating in China over 2,000 years ago. The two major modalities of TCVM are Chinese herbal medicine (CHM) and acupuncture.

As early as 4,000 years ago, the Chinese inscribed words on bones and tortoise shells. Archeologists have found inscriptions for "herbal wine" on ancient bones excavated from the Shang Dynasty (16th-11th century BC), leading them to believe that the application of herbal wine was the earliest historical use of Chinese herbs.

Today, the long standing history and knowledge behind Chinese Herbal Medicine (CHM) is used to prepare herbal remedies using modern methods that best utilize herbs. Many clinical studies have indicated that CHM is extremely effective in treating a wide variety of medical disorders including cardiovascular, dermatological, respiratory, gastrointestinal, neurological and endocrine diseases. New clinical evidence shows that CHM is an effective treatment of gastric ulcers in horses, and inflammatory bowel disease in dogs. In cancer patients, CHM may be used as a stand alone treatment to shrink or eliminate tumors. Many owners report that their animals have an improved quality of life while receiving CHM.

Usage in Today's World

What are the common forms of herbal medicines and how are they packaged?

There are traditional powder preparations that may be sprinkled on foods or given by mouth (these are generally not well accepted by cats) but may be used in suppository injections (which may be better tolerated!). Other options include capsules that are given by mouth or tiny, bb-sized tea pills which are compressed pellets (but may be a little less potent due to their coating and processing).

What are the goals of herbal therapy?

Goals fall into 4 categories: 1) to cure disease; 2) to stabilize and prevent a disease from advancing; 3) to mediate the side effects or increase the effectiveness of Western medical treatments; 4) to promote quality of life and increase the well-being of patients who have debilitating diseases.

Can Chinese herbs be used safely with conventional medicine?

In general, YES, because the formulas are designed to balance the body and treat the exhibited pattern which is sometimes secondary to the disease or treatment of conventional medication effects on the body. However, the patients that are also on Western heart medications, diuretics, anti-diabetic drugs, anti-hypertensive medications, and blood thinners should be monitored carefully when using herbs that have similar effects.

How do you effectively administer herbs so they are accepted by the cat?

Firstly, you must decide that your cat will benefit from herbal medication and that s/he will receive the formulas. If you are not firm in this belief, your cat may pick up on your reluctance and also be more challenging to work with. So be kind, but have firm, gentle intentionality and a no-nonsense approach so all will benefit.

Administer the medication when your cat is very hungry, mixed in moist or wet food. If rejected, disguise it in something your cat likes such as cooked meat, canned food, cheese, yogurt, ice cream, flavored oils (e.g. fish), etc. Once consumed, serve the rest of the meal. You can also use Pill Pockets treats. For those extremely stubborn cats, suppositories made from the herbal powders may be an alternative option.

How long does it take to see results?

In general, herbs may take a few hours up to a month before improvement is appreciated. Clinically, herbal medicine is effective in 95% of cases provided: 1) the correct TCVM diagnosis has been identified (i.e. not a Western diagnosis); 2) the appropriate herbal formula has been selected by a TCVM pattern differentiation; and 3) the appropriate dosage is administered for a sufficient amount of time.

For example, two animals with arthritis may not necessarily require the same herb. The pattern must be determined to select the appropriate formula.

Results will differ on a case-by-case basis, but generally an acute condition will respond quickly, whereas a chronic condition may take 1-3 weeks before clinical improvement is seen. If you do not see positive results after 4 weeks (depending on the condition being treated), then we may need to reconsider the formula and re-evaluate the disease pattern.

What are the side effects of taking herbs?

Vomiting and loose stool are the most frequent side effects, and can usually be eliminated by decreasing the dosage (check with the doctor). Rarely, panting may be seen.

How safe is Chinese Herbal Medicine? How do I know that this blend of herbs is safe? Do they contain animal parts?

Herbs are drugs and as such, can be very potent. Chinese herbals can cause problems if they are abused or inappropriately prescribed. Herbal training is necessary before prescribing these products. For instance, Ephedra (Ma Huang) caused the death of several people so the FDA banned this specific herb in the United States. Our herbal products are free of Ephedra and all other herbs that contain aristolochic acid, and our manufacturers continue to monitor the safety of all herbs that are used in their formulas.

Generally, a good herbalist does not need animal product as there are usually good herbal substitutes so it is very rare to have animal products in a herbal formulation. And, most certainly no endangered animal products are used in your prescription.

Additionally, we purchase herbal preparations only from experienced suppliers who adhere to Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) as established by the FDA and who use independent laboratories to confirm quality and purity of the product.

My cat is being prescribed Chinese herbs for the following:

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In the first week, give formula ________________________________ tea pill/power/capsule in the following manner: _____________________________________________

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