Chinese herbal veterinary medicine


College of Integrative Veterinary


Dr. Erika Sullivan completed over twenty case reports, 160 hours of study, and has successfully integrated the use of Chinese Herbal Formulations registered for animals into the treatment of her patients.


What is chinese herbal veterinary medicine?

Chinese Herbal Veterinary Medicine (CHVM) is a branch of Chinese Herbal Medicine, a practice that stems from the early teachings and discovery of Shen Nong, a legendary emperor in china, whom linked molecular properties and taste from herbs as indicators of its biological effects and thus prescribed medicine.

The Western Veterinary Practitioner very often reaches for a drug that blocks or attenuates a sign or symptom, often doing nothing more than that; not addressing the underlying cause or disharmony, nor dealing with the consequences of its infutile results. Chinese Herbs, natural and plant-based, have been tested clinically and experimentally for thousands of years prior to the advent of Western medical drugs.


Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) views the body as interconnected in terms of emotions, seasons, organ systems, and energy flow (circulation). When a disharmony or imbalance occurs in one part of the body, other parts naturally are affected. The mind and body are not viewed separately, and both as part of an energetic system. The organs are interconnected structures, working together to keep the body functioning in balance/harmony. The goals of acupuncture and CHVM are to resolve this disharmony, such that an equilibrium (Yin - Yang) is restored. The use of herbal formulations specific to the disharmony, coupled with dietary and lifestyle changes, helps the body re-equilibrate to a balanced state (disease-free).


In Western terms, the same effects might be explained medically in such terms as: restoration of blood flow/circulation to particular organs/systems; targeted and non-specific anti-inflammatory effects; insulin sensitisation and assimilation of nutrients; and cellular changes enhancing immunity or resolving abnormal cellular growth/changes.


Chinese Herbs have properties unique to each herb pertaining to taste. Different parts of the plant such as the leaves, roots, stems, flowers and seeds may be used, and each may offer a unique taste/property, stimulating different physiological effects. In TCVM, herbs may be used on their own, or combined in formulations and given as capsules, liquid extracts, concentrated granules, or powders. Different formulations are used to treat a variety of ailments in pets, and in conjunction with lifestyle and dietary changes, have had success in the resolution and palliation of inflammatory disorders, cancer, allergies, autoimmune disease, behaviour disorders, and metabolic / endocrine disorders such as diabetes, etc.

Not Sure if Chinese Herbal Veterinary Medicine Could Help Your Pet?

Here are some common questions and answers one might have regarding the use of Chinese Herbal Medicine in animals:

Are Chinese Herbal formulas safe?

Your certified veterinary practitioner in CHVM will first seek a TCVM diagnosis and prescribe herbs on the basis of the unique disharmony or imbalance identified. Whilst there have been reports of herbal products being contaminated with drugs, toxins, or heavy metals, your certified veterinary practitioner should know which herbs are safe and prescribe only reputable sources of herbs. Many countries have safety and sourcing requirements to prevent contamination and for quality risk management. The risks of contaminated herbs from controlled sources are rare, and would be no more common than branded Western drugs becoming recalled or discontinued in the event of contamination.


What are the side effects?

Side effects of CHVM are relatively uncommon, the most common and managed possibly being a slight adjustment by the gastrointestinal tract (GI) of your pet due to introduction of herbs too rapidly. This often results in soft stools, and can be abated by discontinuing the herbal formula for a day or two, and reintroducing it gradually and at lower levels so the GI tract can slowly adapt. In the event that your CHVM practitioner prescribes a formula with indications that are slightly different than the actual disharmony your pet displays, sometimes unexpected new symptoms, namely revealing the underlying disharmony, might appear, leading your CHVM practitioner to choose the most appropriate CH formula based on the animals’ response. While one would think allergic reactions to constituent herbs would be common (like allergies to foods are to individuals), in reality they are extremely rare and not seen.

Dr. Erika treats juvenile koalas with Chinese Herbal Formulas to aid in the reversal of genetic illness and support gastrointestinal health.

Dr. Erika treats juvenile koalas with Chinese Herbal Formulas to aid in the reversal of genetic illness and support gastrointestinal health.

Can my pet take Chinese Herbal Formulas while already taking Western Drugs?

Yes, it is not uncommon to prescribe Chinese Herbs to pets on medical therapy, and in some cases the synergistic effects and alterations to your animals’ blood flow/circulation will allow for reductions in the dose of the drug, or in some cases discontinuation of the drug completely. Any suspected negative effects while taking concomitant drugs and herbs should be brought up immediately to your CHVM practitioner.

How long does it take for Chinese Herbs to work?

In Western medicines that suppress a response or mask the underlying condition, it may look apparent from the outside that the condition has resolved, when really the symptom has subsided. Whilst Chinese herbal medicine does not work this way, rather altering cellular responses and molecular communication, and using the energetic properties and tastes of the herbal constituents to alter circulation and response to underlying imbalances, effects might not be seen for up to 2-3 weeks time after initiating therapy. However, with the correct application, such effects should target the underlying imbalance and prevent its recurrence, rather than suppress a symptom. Especially in chronic medical conditions, your CHVM practitioner might need to periodically change Chinese herbal formulations, as different sequential disharmonies unfold, just like peeling back layers of an onion, to get to the root disharmony. As many ailments have genetic, dietary, lifestyle, and emotional components, the roots and multifactorial elements affecting your animal will likely all require consideration to resolve the root problem.

What conditions may benefit from Chinese Herbal Veterinary Medicine?

In TCVM, CHM is said to perform the functions of: balancing yin and yang (restoring imbalance), fighting infections (strengthening immune responses), restoring and improving Qi (energy, blood, and vital source), nourishing the blood and restoring circulation, removing toxin accumulations in the body, improving digestion and absorption of nutrients, and improving genetic weakness, such that susceptibilities as a result are less frequent. As a result, it is not uncommon to that such therapy is sought for inflammatory disorders (like osteoarthritis, pain, and musculoskeletal disorders), cancer (neoplasia), autoimmune conditions (hyper or hypo reactive immune system), allergies, endocrine disease (diabetes, thyroid disorders, liver diseases, etc), and/or behavioural / cognitive imbalances (psychological enhancement through restoration of circulation). Ultimately, a TCVM practitioner will obtain a complete thorough history and TCVM examination on your pet and prescribe a tailored treatment approach that suits your own and your pets needs.