Pet Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine

TCVM (Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine) is a practice that involves the 5 Elements theory. Without getting into this too much, there is a way that each element is represented in the body of every being, and keeping them in balance is health.

Dr. North sitting with dog

Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine

When one’s pet experiences an imbalance in their energy, disease often follows. In the realm of traditional medicine, the approach typically follows a linear path: if there’s inflammation, it’s countered with anti-inflammatory measures; if it’s a bacterial infection, the solution is anti-bacterial treatments. Such approaches remain integral in the practice of integrative medicine. However, through the incorporation of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM), a deeper understanding emerges, enabling the practitioner to address the root cause of the ailment. Restoring the body’s equilibrium becomes paramount, reducing the likelihood of disease.

Consider the case of Woody, a vigilant Shih Tzu dedicated to safeguarding his family and yard. Over the past year, he has endured six ear infections and exhibited increased irritability toward other dogs, often provoking confrontations he cannot conclude. Recent lab work conducted by his conventional veterinarian revealed slightly elevated liver enzymes, all suggestive of an imbalance within the wood element. In the past, when practicing as a traditional vet, the course of action for pets like Woody typically involved interventions like the Hills Z/d diet, numerous ear medications, and possibly long-term treatments such as Cytopoint or Apoquel.

However, the integration of TCVM into the practice has enabled a more holistic approach. Many dogs, including Woody, have been gradually liberated from these medications as their bodies regain equilibrium through a combination of acupuncture, food therapy, and Chinese herbal treatments. In this particular case, the focus would be on identifying and addressing the precise TCVM patterns underpinning Woody’s chronic issues. This comprehensive treatment plan would likely encompass acupuncture sessions, the strategic use of Chinese herbs, and dietary adjustments. As time progresses, the goal would be to gradually wean Woody off cytopoint or apoquel, allowing him to achieve a healthier, more balanced state.


The elements work in a circle; everything is connected. If the circle has a starting place, it’s the wood element. It represents youth, the beginning, a seedling, etc.

Season: Spring

Color: Green

Sound: Shout/ yell

Secretions: tears

Sensory organs: Eyes

Body type: athletic and strong

Area of tongue: sides

Imbalance emotion: Anger, frustration, irritation

Time of day: 11-1 am Gallbladder, 1-3 am Liver

Body Action: spasms/ tantrums

Ages/ season of life: Youth, prepubescent

Taste: Sour Foods that help balance: Green food, sour food ex. Collards, Spirulina, wheatgrass

Organs: Liver and Gallbladder; Tendons and ligaments

Diseases associated: Gallbladder or liver disease, tendon / ligament injuries (think cruciate ligament injuries in an athletic animal or person)


This is the element of your typical slightly overweight, very sweet, would never growl, etc. type of golden or Labrador retriever. An example of an imbalance with this element is a 7-year-old yellow lab presented for chronic intermittent vomiting and diarrhea. Occasionally, there is even a loss of appetite when this happens. They have been feeding a low-fat Rx diet, but the issue is not completely resolved. In addition, now he’s starting to develop a lot of lipomas. This is an imbalance in the earth element – he would identify the patterns by looking at the tongue and the pulses, asking lots of questions, then treating the underlying pattern—animals with these issues to great on human-grade whole foods diets, Chinese herbs, and acupuncture.

Season: late summer

Color: Yellow

Sound: singing

Secretions: Saliva

Time of day: 7 am to 11 am

Sensory organ: tongue

Foods that help balance: rice, apricot, sweet potato, beef

Body Action:
spitting/ vomiting

Organs: stomach and spleen (includes pancreas)

Area of tongue:

Ages/ season of life: late 20’s to 30’s – when a lot of people have a family/ are raising children

Diseases associated:
pancreatitis, stomach ulcers, stomach problems

Body Type: prone to being overweight Imbalance emotion: preoccupation/ worry Taste/flavor


Dr. North greatly appreciates the assistance of metal humans in their role as veterinary technicians. These individuals consistently exhibit qualities of dependability and organization, adhering to a consistent routine and always punctual. Among their most cherished patients are metal dogs and cats, with whom they establish trust and rapport. Once this bond is established, the animals understand the process: acupuncture administered by the doctor, followed by their own well-behaved cooperation, culminating in a successful session every time. This predictable pattern is a source of delight for the Dr. North.

A noteworthy observation is that the lung, an organ associated with the metal element and grief, exhibits heightened activity between 3 to 5 am. Dr. North often experiences moments of waking during this period when grappling with intense grief. Another time frame linked to the metal element is between 5 to 7 am, known as the Large Intestine time. Many of the doctor’s patients exhibit imbalances in this area, often motivating their owners to rise at 5 am for a bowel movement. One illustrative case involves a friendly but reserved gray cat suffering from chronic asthma that worsens in the fall, accompanied by a slightly flaky coat. Such cats respond exceptionally well to Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) treatment, demonstrating the effectiveness of this approach in addressing metal element imbalances.

Sound: weeping

Color: white

Time of day: 3 am to 7 am

Body Type: normal, average

Imbalance emotion: Grief and sadness

Season: Fall/ autumn (dry weather)

Organs: Lung and Large Intestine

Diseases associated: Constipation, bronchitis/ asthma

Body action: coughing/ wheezing

Ages/ season of life: Retirement age / empty nest

Area of tongue: mid tip ( so the sides of the tip but not the actual sides – that is Liver/ Wood)

Taste/flavor: pungent Foods that help balance: Rice, onion (humans only!), cinnamon, cumin, pepper

Sensory organ: nose Secretions: nasal fluid (snot) – (I know I produce a lot of this when I’m grieving!)


The water element represents the last phase of life before death. Picture an older cat with kidney disease who can’t seem to get warm. Or a geriatric dog with a leaky bladder… The last phase of life is when we see problems in the water element show up. It can also happen earlier in life, especially if the patient has a water constitution.

Season: Winter

Color: white

Sound: Groaning

Area of tongue: rear

Organs: kidney and bladder

Imbalance emotion: fear or terror

Time of day: 3 pm to 7 pm

Sensory organ: ears Secretions: urine

Body Type: slight or even prematurely aging

Body action: Trembling/ shivering

Ages/ season of life: last season before death

Taste/flavor: salty Foods that help balance: pork, peas, barley, kidney bean

Diseases associated: kidney disease, bladder disease, urinary incontinence, deafness

Dominant/ alpha Emotional / easily excited or feelings hurt Slow moving, balanced or serene Aloof Timid or Fearful (Hides with strangers)/Trembles
Friendly when balanced, can be aggressive/ dominant or territorial as well Overly friendly, licking strangers, jumping on them etc. Friendly but slow about it Independent Premature aging
Prone to anger Prone to anxiety; has separation anxiety Prone to worry Prone to lung issues like asthma or bronchitis Bladder problems (especially in winter)
Athletic and strong; often competitive Sensitive Pancreatitis or stomach problems Dry skin Arthritis
Liver or gallbladder disease Center of attention/ touch me! Overweight Sinus issues Gets cold easily
Tendon or ligament problems Insomnia Loves to eat Cough Hearing loss or deaf
Ear infections Heart disease or murmur Vomiting Constipation (cats especially) Normal noises cause fear
Fearless / pioneer spirit Vocal – bark, whine a lot Gum disease Dislikes change/ upset with change Kidney disease
Eye problems or red eyes Hyperactive if unbalanced / high energy in general Diarrhea Prone to depression or sadness Craves or loves salty food (ex. cat who insists on dry food)
Seizures Very playful Nurturing or motherly Colitis Weak in rear legs
Patient Impatient Patient Frequently gray/ silver coated, but not always Unbalanced can go into total withdrawal