A Lesson in Chinese Veterinary Medicine Terminology

Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) uses various therapies, such as acupuncture, diet, herbal therapy, and massage, to restore balance and harmony to a pet’s body and treat and prevent disease. TCVM is an adaptation and extension of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which is based on the concept that the body is a microcosm of the surrounding universe. This means that the natural laws and forces that govern the world also influence the body’s internal environment. This blog will help you understand some key Chinese Medicine terms and shed light on their meanings and significance.

Vital energy

At the heart of TCVM lies the concept of Qi—pronounced Chi—an invisible energy force that is in constant motion in a healthy body, nourishing organs and tissues and maintaining overall health. If the Qi is weakened or blocked, illness results. Understanding Qi is fundamental to diagnosing and treating body imbalances.

Qi flows through the body via meridians, which are pathways that connect various body parts. Twelve main meridians correspond to a specific organ system, and eight extraordinary meridians regulate the flow of Qi throughout the body. 

Stagnation occurs when blood and Qi aren’t moving freely through the meridians, creating energy blocks that lead to pain and disease.

Five elements

The five elements, which are aspects of Qi, include:

  • Earth meridians — Earth meridians are associated with the stomach and spleen. A weak Earth Qi leads to pensiveness.
  • Fire meridians — Fire meridians are associated with the heart and small intestines. A weak Fire Qi can lead to anxiety, restlessness, and insomnia.
  • Metal meridians — Metal meridians are associated with the lungs and large intestine. A Metal Qi imbalance can lead to grief and sadness.
  • Water meridians — Water meridians are associated with the kidneys and bladder. A weak Water Qi can lead to problems with water metabolism, urination, and fertility.
  • Wood meridians — Wood meridians are associated with the liver and gallbladder. A weak Wood Qi can lead to indecisiveness.

Pattern diagnosis

Pattern diagnosis is an essential TCVM component that refers to customizing a patient’s treatment based on clinical information gathered according to the following principles:

  • Yin-Yang theory — According to Chinese theory, Yin and Yang are two forces in the universe. Yin is negative, dark, and feminine, while Yang is positive, bright, and masculine. A cold, deficient, and interior pattern is considered Yin, while a hot, excessive, and exterior pattern is considered Yang. Most disharmony patterns have elements of both.
  • Five elements theory — The interactions and relationships between the five elements help develop a pattern diagnosis. These elements are constantly moving and changing with enhancement and inhibition on each side. 
  • Five fundamental substances — The five fundamental substances are Qi, Xue (blood), Jinge (body fluids), Jing (essence), and Shen (spirit).
  • Six common pathogens — The conditions that cause illness include wind, cold, dampness, dryness, fire, and heat.

Excess and deficiency

Four pathological Yin-Yang imbalances can occur, including:

  • Yang excess — When Yang energy isn’t regulated by the body’s cooling power, clinical signs typically include high fever, red or purple tongue, and strong pulse. 
  • Yin excess — When the body’s cooling power overwhelms the warming energy, clinical signs include pain, swelling, edema (i.e., a painless swelling beneath the skin surface caused by fluid retention), loose stool, pale or purple tongue, and slow pulse.
  • Yang deficiency — If the body’s warming power can’t equalize the cooling energy, potential clinical signs include cold extremities, edema, loose stool, chronic back pain, incontinence, fertility disorders, pale tongue, rear limb weakness, and weak pulse. 
  • Yin deficiency — If the body’s cooling power isn’t equalized by the warming energy, clinical signs may include generalized weakness, thirst, restlessness, anxiety, red or dry tongue, and thready or fast pulse. 

Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine treatments

TCVM treatment uses a holistic approach that addresses the mind, body, and spirits, as well as social factors. Treatment modalities to tonify (i.e., strengthen or nourish) the body’s energy include acupuncture, herbal medicine, food therapy, and tui-na.

Acupuncture uses needles at certain pressure points in the body that correspond to meridians to rebalance or unblock the body’s energy flow. Acupressure works on the same basic principle as acupuncture, but uses pressure and massage instead of needles.

Herbal medicine uses particular herbal ingredients in individualized combinations and formulas, depending on the patient’s disease pattern. The ingredients can be in powder, tea, pill, or capsule form.

Food therapy uses diet to treat and prevent body imbalances by tailoring the patient’s diet based on their diagnosis and the food’s energetics. 

Tui-na is Chinese medical massage that manipulates acupoints and meridians to promote Qi circulation and correct organ system imbalances.

While TCVM can benefit pets with physical and emotional ailments, it can also help healthy pets maintain their state of balance and well-being. If you think TCVM could benefit your pet, schedule an appointment for your four-legged friend with the Integrative Medicine Department at Long Island Veterinary Specialists. We can be reached at 516-501-1700. 

Motion Palpation and Veterinary Medical Manipulation

Orthopedic conditions are common in pets, but structural changes seen on X-rays and other imaging modalities often don’t correlate with the patient’s signs. When a pet’s joint range of motion is restricted, significant repercussions, including neck or back pain, lameness, organ dysfunction, and a reduced immune response, can result. Veterinarians qualified in motion palpation and Veterinary Medical Manipulation (VMM) techniques can help restricted pets regain healthy joint movement and reduce their muscle tension, alleviate pain, strengthen muscles, and re-nourish cartilage and nerve tissue. 

What is motion palpation in veterinary medicine?

Motion palpation involves a veterinarian’s hands-on examination of every vertebral junction for functional changes, with the veterinarian taking each joint through its entire range of motion to detect motion loss or increased resistance to induced motion. Potential spinal segmental dysfunction issues, or restrictions, include:

  • Symmetrical or asymmetrical joint mobility loss in one or more planes
  • Localized pain
  • Increased pain when pressure is applied to surrounding muscles and bony structures
  • Active inflammation or chronic tissue changes, such as swelling, tissue thickening, redness, and altered surface temperature, that can be visualized or palpated

In many cases, joints with segmental dysfunction issues appear completely normal when viewed on X-rays or other diagnostic imaging techniques.

How do restrictions affect pets?

Restrictions have numerous consequences for pets, including:

  • Local effects — Restrictions can cause tissue adhesions, joint cartilage degeneration, and decreased blood flow to the joint, and the mechanical stress, muscle tension, and inflammation can alter nerve function and be painful.
  • Compensatory effects — Joints adjacent to the restricted joint become hyper-mobile to compensate, increasing their injury risk and their susceptibility to degenerative joint disease (i.e., arthritis). In addition, when surrounding muscles attempt to stabilize the hyper-mobile joint, they contract more than normal and become tense, which places more stress on tendons and increases injury risk. 
  • Systemic effects — Chronic pain and inflammation can lead to systemic effects, such as organ dysfunction and a weakened immune response.

What is Veterinary Medical Manipulation?

VMM is similar to human chiropractic care and involves correcting specific restrictions and restoring normal range of motion using a high velocity, low amplitude (HVLA) thrust in the joint’s plane. The veterinarian can perform these manipulations hands-on or with specialized instruments designed for pets. 

What are the signs that my pet may benefit from Veterinary Medical Manipulation?

Signs that indicate your pet may benefit from VMM include:

  • Neck or back pain
  • Abnormal gait or undefined lameness
  • Abnormal posture or stance
  • Reduced performance
  • Reluctance to move, jump, or climb stairs
  • Stiffness
  • Discomfort when being petted, groomed, or lifted
  • Recurrent digestive problems or incontinence
  • Recurrent infections
  • Lick granulomas

Who performs Veterinary Medical Manipulation?

A thorough knowledge of structural anatomy, neurophysiology, and biomechanics, as well as spine and extremities pathologies, is critical for understanding VMM principles and applying the techniques appropriately. This means that veterinary and specific chiropractic training is essential. Motion palpation and VMM should be performed only by qualified veterinary professionals who have completed additional specialized animal chiropractic training and certification to ensure safe and effective treatment for animals.

What can I expect during my pet’s Veterinary Medical Manipulation appointment?

A typical initial VMM appointment begins with a thorough history and physical examination. Depending on your pet’s condition, the veterinarian may first recommend diagnostics, such as X-rays or blood work, and then perform a motion palpation examination, correcting the restrictions with VMM techniques. Most pets relax and show no pain or anxiety during these manipulations. Depending on your pet’s case, they may be sent home or remain in the hospital for overnight observation. Some pets respond quickly to treatment and need only one or two adjustments, while those with chronic conditions may benefit from regular VMM sessions. Your veterinarian will determine the best protocol for your pet. 

VMM is often used in conjunction with other veterinary treatments, such as medication, surgery, acupuncture, physical rehabilitation, and food therapy.  For more information about VMM and the Integrative Medicine services provided by Dr. Michel Selmer, contact Long Island Veterinary Specialists at (516) 501-1700, or visit us at livs.org.

Food Therapy 

 Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine, and let medicine be thy food,” in 400 BC, indicating that for centuries people have realized nutrition was important to help prevent and cure disease. Food therapy is a component of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) that uses specific foods and herbs to treat pets based on genetic tendencies, age, species, environment, disease patterns, personality, and stress levels. Food therapy does not simply involve recommending generally healthy foods, but rather prescribing particular foods based on the pet’s individual needs. Food therapy selects and combines the appropriate foods for your four-legged friend to restore and maintain their balance and optimal health.

Food therapy goals for pets

Food therapy’s purpose is to determine each pet’s distinct patterns and suggest ingredients that can benefit their individual needs and constitution. Food therapy recipes can be classified as follows:

  • Health promotion and prevention — These diets are meant to improve health on an everyday basis and to prevent climate-related and seasonal problems.
  • Disease treatment — These diets are formulated to complement primary treatments for clinical conditions, such as skin problems, autoimmune disease, otitis, cancer, kidney and liver disease, and immunodeficiency.

Food therapy is not meant to replace traditional medicine but to enhance conventional and integrative therapies.

Food therapy philosophy for pets

Food therapy is based on TCVM’s Five Element Theory, which takes a holistic approach to pets’ health and healing by organizing the body into five functioning organ systems that correspond with natural elements. Each element has unique properties that influence the digestive system and overall health and wellness. Foods are classified as cooling or warming in each of the five elements, which include:

  • Water element — The water element governs the kidneys and bladder and includes foods that contain water to help cleanse and detoxify the body, flush out toxins, and hydrate cells. 
    • Warming water element foods include beef, lamb, chicken, and ginger.
    • Cooling water element foods include cucumber, watermelon, mung bean, and cabbage.
  • Wood element — The wood element governs the liver and gallbladder, which store and release bile to help break down fats.
    • Warming wood element foods include oatmeal, brown rice, millet, and honey.
    • Cooling wood element foods include celery, lettuce, broccoli, and sprouts.
  • Fire element — The fire element governs the small intestine and heart and includes hot or spicy foods that help increase circulation and metabolism.
    • Warming fire element foods include chili pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.
    • Cooling fire element foods include watermelon, tomatoes, strawberries, and oranges.
  • Earth element — The earth element governs the spleen and stomach, which are responsible for food digestion. 
    • Warming earth element foods include sweet potatoes, yams, peanuts, and sesame seeds.
    • Cooling earth element foods include radishes, beets, and carrots.
  • Metal element — The metal element governs the lungs and colon, which help control breathing and body fluid and waste removal.
    • Warming metal element foods include pumpkin, squash, and ginger.
    • Cooling metal element foods include pears, apples, bananas, and papaya.


Flavors can influence food therapy for pets

Your pet can receive therapeutic benefits from different flavors, such as:

  • Bitter — Bitter foods cool down the body and direct energy downward, helping to reduce inflammation.
  • Sweet — Sweet foods nourish bodily fluids and aid digestion. Processed sugars create internal heat and inflammation and lead to conditions such as obesity and diabetes, while healthy sweet foods such as Chinese yams can help boost energy levels and aid digestion.
  • Spicy — Spicy foods can help with moving energy outward and with treatment of respiratory issues. 
  • Salty — Salty foods, which help cool the body and move energy inward, help improve thyroid function.
  • Sour — Sour foods can help with GI issues, such as diarrhea.


Seasonal influence on food therapy for pets

Food choices should be balanced and modified with the season, especially in northern climates with dramatic seasonal changes. Considerations include:

  • Spring and summer — Spring and summer foods should help your pet reduce and dispel heat and stay hydrated.
  • Fall and winter — Fall and winter foods should help keep your pet warm, but not stimulate inflammation.

Temperature and color can influence food therapy for pets

A food’s temperature and color can also influence their effect on the body. Specifics include:

  • Temperature — Warm foods help with digestion and circulation, while cool foods help calm the mind.
  • Color — Different-colored foods target specific body areas that need attention. For example, black foods, such as blackberries and black beans, can help with kidney issues; yellow foods, such as ginger, squash, and yams, can aid digestion; and leafy green foods can minimize liver problems.

Food therapy combined with other treatment modalities can enhance your pet’s overall treatment effectiveness and help ensure an optimal outcome. If you would like to learn more about food therapy and the Integrative Medicine services provided by Dr. Michel Selmer, contact Long Island Veterinary Specialists at (516) 501-1700, or visit us at livs.org.


Does My Dog Need a Tracheal Stent?

Tracheal collapse is a common problem in small-breed dogs, and can lead to severe respiratory distress without appropriate treatment. In some cases, surgery is necessary to correct the problem and ensure the affected dog can breathe properly. Our team of internationally recognized veterinary surgical experts at Long Island Veterinary Specialists is able to perform this technically demanding procedure necessary for your dog with tracheal collapse.

What is tracheal collapse in dogs?

The trachea (i.e., windpipe) is the fairly rigid tube made up of C-shaped cartilaginous rings that connects the nose, mouth, and throat to the lungs, spanning the neck and extending into the chest. The open end of each C (i.e., the tracheal membrane) faces the dog’s back and is composed of the trachealis muscle and connective tissue. Factors that contribute to tracheal collapse include:

  • Tracheomalacia — Tracheomalacia causes the cartilage rings to weaken and become soft and spongy, causing the tracheal membrane to loosen and be sucked into the airway during breathing. Tracheal collapse can affect the trachea at any point in the neck or chest. When the neck portion is affected, the dog experiences problems during inspiration, and when the chest portion is affected, they experience exhalation problems. The underlying cause of this distressing disease is not fully understood, but is likely multifactorial, involving genetic, nutritional, and allergic triggers. 
  • Inflammation — When the trachea collapses, inflammation occurs, causing increased tracheal secretions, which promotes more coughing, which generates more inflammation.  The inflammation produces enzymes that further soften the tracheal cartilage, exacerbating the tracheal collapse.


What dogs are at risk?

Small-breed dogs are most commonly affected, and poodles, Yorkshire terriers, Pomeranians, and Chihuahuas are at highest risk. Dogs can be affected at any age, but the condition typically manifests in middle-aged and older dogs. Other risk factors include:

  • Obesity — Carrying excess weight can exacerbate breathing difficulties in affected dogs.
  • Respiratory disease — Respiratory infections, such as kennel cough, can complicate the condition.
  • Respiratory irritants — Dogs who live in a household with a smoker are more likely to exhibit signs.
  • Heart enlargement — The enlarged heart of a dog with a heart condition can press on the trachea, exacerbating the problem. 


Diagnosis of tracheal collapse in dogs

The most common tracheal collapse sign is a persistent, dry hacking cough sometimes described as a goose honk cough. The cough may worsen when the dog is excited, during hot or humid weather, after eating or drinking, or when the trachea is pressured (e.g., from a collar). Affected dogs may also experience exercise intolerance, noisy or difficulty breathing, and fainting. When tracheal collapse is suspected, common diagnostics include:

  • Blood work — Our veterinary team may perform a complete blood count and a biochemistry profile to rule out an infectious agent and assess your dog’s overall health. In addition, we will assess your dog’s liver function, since many dogs with a collapsing trachea have concurrent liver disease.
  • X-rays — We can evaluate tracheal collapse on neck and chest X-rays, although the condition is not always visible.
  • Fluoroscopy — Fluoroscopy is an imaging technique that allows our veterinary team to dynamically assess your dog’s trachea during inhalation and exhalation, and to document the location and severity of collapse.
  • Computed tomography (CT) — CT is another imaging modality that can be used to document tracheal collapse.
  • Endoscopy — Endoscopy allows our veterinary team to look inside your dog’s trachea. During the exam, we may also take samples for culture and analysis.
  • Echocardiogram — In some cases, our veterinary team may recommend an ultrasound of your dog’s heart to assess the situation.


Medical management for tracheal collapse in dogs

Many dogs affected by tracheal collapse respond well to medical management, particularly those with a mild collapse. Treatment, which is typically multi-faceted, involves:

  • Weight control — If the dog is overweight, losing the excess pounds can significantly improve their condition.
  • Removing irritants — If the dog’s household includes a smoker, the dog’s condition will improve if the smoker quits.
  • Antibiotics — Dogs who have a collapsed trachea are at higher risk for infection, since they can’t efficiently clear pathogens from their lower respiratory tract, and they may need antibiotics to help clear the infection.
  • Cough suppressants — Medications that help reduce your dog’s cough may be helpful.
  • Steroids — Steroids are frequently used on a short-term basis to help reduce mucus and decrease inflammation.
  • Oxygen therapy — In severe cases, your dog may need oxygen therapy to ensure they are well oxygenated.


Surgical management for tracheal collapse in dogs

If medical management does not produce satisfactory results, tracheal stenting may be beneficial. Tracheal stenting is a non-invasive procedure that involves placing a self-expanding, cylindrical prosthesis to help keep the airway open. The procedure can often dramatically improve the dog’s quality of life, and improvement is typically seen in 90% of patients. Patients are typically in the hospital for only one day. Complications are rare and include issues such as stent migration, stent fracture, and infection. Care following a tracheal stenting procedure is minimal and includes:

  • Giving medications — While the procedure improves most clinical signs, continued medical management is typically necessary.
  • Losing weight — If your dog is overweight, it is beneficial to have them lose the excess pounds. Our staff can help with this.
  • Recheck appointments —After a tracheal stent procedure, your dog will need several monthly follow-up examinations to ensure their condition is not still progressing.

Tracheal stenting can significantly improve your dog’s quality of life if they have moderate or severe tracheal collapse, because maintaining a patent airway helps them breathe better and reduces coughing. If you think your dog could benefit from tracheal stenting, contact Long Island Veterinary Specialists, so we can determine if your dog is a good candidate for the procedure.

How to Identify Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

If you are a dog owner, you may already be aware of how common hip dysplasia is in dogs. Some breeds are more prone to developing it than others, but any dog can potentially have hip dysplasia, including mixed breeds.

In this article, we’ll walk you through some of the most common symptoms of hip dysplasia so you can learn more about how to identify them. With this information, you can figure out whether or not you need to speak with your veterinarian about the potential of hip dysplasia in your own dog. If you have any questions, call LIVS at (516) 501-1700.

hip dysplasia in dogs in plainview, ny

What Is Hip Dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia is one of the most common orthopedic conditions seen in dogs. While this condition most commonly affects large and giant breeds, any size dog and even cats may be affected.

Hip dysplasia is the abnormal growth and development of the hip joint. The hip joint is a “ball and socket” joint. The ball is the head of the femur. The socket is part of the pelvic bone, the acetabulum. Normally, the head of the femur fits very tightly within the acetabulum. In hip dysplasia, the joint does not fit together snugly, causing instability. As a result, the joint will partially subluxate or move in and out of the socket. This may cause cartilage damage and severe arthritis in dogs as early as one year of age.

Common Symptoms of Hip Dysplasia 


Lethargy is a common symptom associated with hip dysplasia. Since it usually hurts dogs to stand up and move around when they have this condition, they become lethargic and less interested in getting up to do anything more than they have to.

Keep in mind, however, that lethargy is also a symptom of many other conditions that might affect your dog. If this is the only symptom you notice, you should work with your family veterinarian to determine the underlying cause and don’t necessarily assume it is hip dysplasia.

Difficulty Moving

If your dog has trouble moving around, this may be another indicator that he has hip dysplasia. Dogs with this condition may have difficulty getting up out of bed and will especially have trouble running, jumping, or climbing stairs.

Difficulty moving or limited range of motion is also a symptom of arthritis, and it can also be related to Lyme disease and other serious health conditions. If you notice this symptom in your dog, talk to your veterinarian, as you may need a more thorough examination before a diagnosis can be made.

Hind End Lameness

Hind end lameness is a fairly solid indicator that your dog could have hip dysplasia. This condition will cause the back end of your dog’s body to become much harder to move, and it can sometimes freeze up or become impossible for him to control.

Lameness in the hind end may not occur until the later stages of hip dysplasia. Chances are good that if your dog is showing this symptom, then he has also shown earlier signs of beginning stages of the condition for a while. Hind end lameness is not associated with many other conditions but should still be examined by a veterinarian to be sure.

Loss of Muscle in the Thigh

As the hip dysplasia condition progresses, dogs will not use their thigh muscles nearly as much, especially when it comes to running and jumping. This will, in turn, lead to an atrophy of the muscles in the thighs. The loss of muscle will eventually become noticeable visually, especially if hip concerns are left untreated.

This is another symptom that is not usually associated with many other conditions. If you notice this symptom in your dog, you have likely already seen some of the others listed here before he has gotten to this point of muscle atrophy.

Unusual Gait

An unusual or odd gait may signify that your dog has hip dysplasia. Some individuals refer to the hip dysplasia gait as a “bunny hop,” as it is similar to the way a rabbit moves when walking. It is a very strange-looking gait for a dog. Since it is quite noticeable, it is sure to stand out as a symptom if your dog shows it.

An unusual gait may also be related to several other problems and will need to be checked by your veterinarian. However, if your dog shows an unusual gait along with any other symptoms on this list, then the chances are more likely that he might have hip dysplasia.

Stiffness and Pain

Finally, your dog may have stiffness and pain if they have hip dysplasia. Even if he is able to move around, he may be stiff when doing so, and it may take him a while to loosen up when he gets out of bed in the morning.

Your dog may also start to guard their hips and legs as the pain increases. If he is reluctant or will not let you pet his hind end or touch his legs, or if he shows signs of fear or aggression when you try to do this, hip dysplasia is a likely cause.

Diagnosing Hip Dysplasia

The primary goal when diagnosing hip dysplasia is to detect hip joint laxity and to assess the degree of degenerative joint disease. Palpation, or careful manipulation of the hip, is an extremely important tool. Radiographs (x-rays) are also very helpful when trying to identify the progression of hip dysplasia.

Dogs who have hip dysplasia may be able to have their conditions managed through medication, supplements, or alternative therapies. These treatment options are generally known as conservative treatment and may be the best option for dogs who are older or who are not good candidates for surgery. Patients like this may also benefit from physical rehabilitation, to help alleviate pain and other symptoms and improve mobility.

If you are concerned that your dog may be exhibiting early signs of hip dysplasia, talk to your primary veterinarian as soon as possible. They will want to schedule an exam for your dog, and if the signs are present, they may refer you to LIVS for a consultation with our surgery team. If you have any questions, give us a call at (516) 501-1700.