Eastern and Western Veterinary Care Meet at Chi Institute
May 01, 2020 09:49PM
By Nancy DeVault
Pet owners are progressively seeking alternative veterinary care for their furry family members, such as traditional Chinese veterinary medicine (TCVM), an extension of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) which uses ancient mind and body practices. While it’s relatively new to Western culture, TCVM has long been used in China.
In 1998, Dr. Huisheng Xie founded the Chi Institute of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine to teach veterinarians and veterinary school students the four pillars of TCVM: acupuncture, food therapy, herbal medicine and tui-na, a Chinese manipulation therapy comparable to massage and chiropractic. Its continuing education (CE) courses are approved by AAVSB RACE and New York state, and its TCVM master program is licensed by the Florida Commission for Independent Education and accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission. Xie believes in a balanced application of both TCVM and Western veterinary medicine for complete veterinary medical care.
“TCVM is a holistic approach that is suited to assess the well-being of the whole patient, and treatments are generally noninvasive with few side effects. However, TCVM lacks the tools necessary to pinpoint illness to specific disease-causing agents like pathogenic bacteria or viruses, and treatments are better suited for chronic conditions than acute ones,” explains Xie, who serves as the institute’s president.
“On the other hand, Western veterinary medicine utilizes the tools of modern science to diagnose disease with great precision, and Western drugs and procedures are powerful and fast-acting,” he explains. “However, its insistence on detailed diagnosis may come at the expense of getting the larger picture. Furthermore, while modern medicine can perform miracles for trauma and acute injuries, it has little to offer chronic conditions like liver failure and atopy, which can be treated effectively with acupuncture and herbal medicine.”
Marketing coordinator Nabby Rivera says most students come to the Chi Institute without any previous training in holistic care. “DVMs (doctors of veterinary medicine) take our continuing education courses and get educational credits through us to maintain their license,” Rivera says. The most popular CE courses focus on acupuncture, with emphasis choices of small breed, mixed breed and equine. “We are track-specific so veterinarians can specialize and get certified in what they need for their practices,” she shares.
Dr. Beverly Chevallier says she expected a weekend seminar to satisfy her curiosity surrounding TCVM. “I had no idea that the concepts and the material would be so foreign to me and that I would leave Chi with more questions than I had answers for,” she admits. A weekend course in 2012, kickstarted a new path that led Chevallier to a master’s degree as a Certified Traditional Chinese Veterinary Practitioner, “The Chi Institute changed my practice, changed my life and changed my outlook for the future-all in a positive way. I only regret not starting this journey 35 years ago,” she says.
The way Xie describes it, a disease disrupts normal bodily functions and acupuncture restores normal body homeostasis to allow innate healing and regeneration to function optimally. “For example, acupuncture releases beta-endorphins that can relieve pain. Another example is that acupuncture mobilizes the stem cells from bone marrow, thus healing injury,” he shares.
Chevallier mixes TCVM into every patient care visit at her Fayetteville-based practice, Active Life Acupuncture & Wellness Center. “If it’s a routine annual examination and vaccinations, I look at the tongue, check the hair coat, feel the pulses, ask about diet, give the vaccine in an immunostimulant point for better immune response, give advice on the diet, etc.,” she says. Chevallier playfully says her integrative approach has transcended her, in the eyes of pet owners, from being a really good veterinarian to a wizard. “Everyone thinks I’m magic now,” she jokes about her impressive success rate.
Onsite classes are held locally at the main campus of the Chi Institute, in Reddick, just 20 miles south of Xie’s alma mater, the University of Florida. As a gator, he earned a Ph.D. for his investigation of the mechanisms of pain control in horses via acupuncture, and he remains active on campus as a clinical professor at the UF College of Veterinary Medicine. The Chi Institute has expanded to a dozen satellite schools worldwide, with both online and face-to-face instruction. To date, more than 8,000 practitioners from 75 countries have received TCVM training.
Xie proclaims that acupuncture alone effectively treats pain, tendon/ligament injury, intervertebral disc disease, seizure, diarrhea, constipation, cough and other conditions. Still, the Chi Institute offers additional TCVM curricula beyond acupuncture through advanced CE courses that feature food therapy, herbal medicine and tui-na, in addition to concepts of neurology, ophthalmology and palliative care. “A combination of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine is an effective therapeutic of skin problems, cancer, Cushing’s syndrome and diabetes,” Xie says.
Thanks to firsthand application, Rivera agrees that a combination approach often works best. Her 18-year-old cat has been in kidney failure for two years, and since initiating a twice-daily regime of herbs and regular acupuncture, little Gypsy has made significant improvements, including increased energy, a healthier appetite and an overall better quality of life.
Xie believes TCVM and Western veterinary medicine each provide to patients what the other lacks. “The best medical system involves the integration of the two systems so that the strengths of one can compensate for the weaknesses of the other,” he says. A TCVM practitioner directory is accessible through the World Association of Traditional Chinese Veterinary at watcvm.org.
Chi Institute of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine is located at 9650 W. Hwy. 318, in Reddick. For more information, call 800-860-1543 or visit TCVM.com.