A pet undergoes acupuncture treatment at the hospital. [Photo by Zou Hong/China Daily]
Less invasive help
In a 6-square-meter consulting room, with two diagrams of dogs' acupuncture points and four pictures of medicinal plants on the walls, Pang felt for the right acupuncture points around Anbei's neck and hind legs with the thumb and forefinger of his left hand. Finding the point he wanted, he lightly inserted the needle with his right hand, before quickly flipping the needle deeper with his index finger.
Pang said he has seen many dogs with spinal problems whose owners were despairing because Western medicine or surgery had no effect.
"Many dogs can't stand up, even after surgery, and end up having acupuncture here," Pang said.
He added that he had seen many of his patients get back on their paws after two or three acupuncture treatments and recover fully after 12, along with the use of herbal medicine and plasters.
He Jingrong, a senior vet who worked at the hospital before retirement, said that even with years of clinical experience, she was worried in 1999 when a "strict" dog owner asked her to only use acupuncture, and no drugs.
He, one of the first students majoring in traditional Chinese veterinary medicine to graduate from China Agricultural University, said she sweated nervously because she was not sure how effective the treatment would be.
Using just medicinal alcohol and acupuncture needles, she treated two 13-year-old Labrador guide dogs who were paralyzed after surgery on their knees. After three acupuncture sessions, the dogs could get up and walk slowly.
"With hindsight, I realized that this experience gave both me and acupuncture an opportunity to prove that we can really be effective," He said.
Traditional Chinese veterinary medicine is even used at Beijing Zoo, where many animals are gifts from other countries and need special attention. Rather than surgery or drugs, He said that a red-crowned crane recovered well from rheumatoid arthritis after its long legs were buried in heated sand.
She said cats are too sensitive to be treated with acupuncture, so she created a massage especially for them that has proved effective in improving blood circulation. He's cat lived to the age of 24.
Traditional Chinese veterinary medicine has a history going back thousands of years. It originated in primitive Chinese society when people started domesticating animals. Veterinary education started as early as the Tang Dynasty (618-907), and the first veterinary hospital was built during the Song Dynasty (960-1279).
Traditional Chinese veterinary medicine uses similar approaches to health and treatment as TCM, including the use of meridians and pressure points, and both share the four methods of diagnosis: inspection; listening and smelling; inquiry; and pulse-taking. There are some differences, of course,－for example, animals can't answer questions.
A dog's pulse is taken at the femoral artery in their hind legs, and the dosage of medication for an animal the size of a horse is a dozen times greater than that for a person, as it is based on the animal's weight.
"Traditional Chinese medicine for people and traditional Chinese medicine for animals enjoy a long history of learning from each other," He said, adding that many drugs are tested on cats and dogs before being used as clinical treatments for humans as the physiological makeup is similar. In turn, the acupuncture points of small animals have been matched up with those of humans.
In the past, traditional Chinese veterinary medicine was used primarily for the big animals that were used for food, farming and transportation.
He said that in 1990 she noticed her patients were changing from large animals to small ones. Her last big animal patients were the horses and mules that transported the capital's garbage before they were replaced by mechanized vehicles.