Global Desk - Alternative vs Traditional Medicine

Dr. Lu Chen

For Lu Chen, a licensed veterinarian in Beijing, traditional veterinary medicine is considered nontraditional according to Western science. But she says both are important for pet health. We asked her to tell us what it was like to work with pet owners from both perspectives.

Bowman Report: Can you describe your veterinary education? Where did you receive your training, and what was that training like?

Lu Chen: In 2017 I graduated from the college of veterinary medicine at China Agricultural University, the top veterinary school in China, after five years of undergraduate study and two years of graduate study. The five-year program was like the DVM degree in the United States. We learned anatomy, biology, surgery, internal medicine and so forth. I received my license in 2015 after I got my bachelor's degree. In China, you do not have to get a DVM to become a veterinarian. As long as you have a bachelor's degree and pass the exam to get the license, then you are a veterinarian.

My two-year master's program in the area of traditional Chinese veterinary medicine (TCVM) was more experimental. I conducted research to see if herbal medicine could treat lipopolysaccharide—and it did!

Overall, I received training in both Eastern and Western medicine. My first five-year study was more focused on Western medicine and the two-year master's program was more focused on Eastern medicine.

BR: Please tell us more about PetcareAbc. Why did you decide to form this company?

Chen: After I got my master's degree in TCVM, I did not become a veterinarian immediately. I chose to visit several hospitals in the U.S. to get fully prepared before I became a real clinician.

I stayed in the States for three months and then became a practicing veterinarian in the winter of 2017. From my experience working as a veterinarian in Beijing, I realized that many of the diseases I was seeing were related to pet owners' poor knowledge of pet care. That's when I began to think about starting my own company.

About three years later, in July 2020, a friend of mine and I decided to work together to teach Chinese pet owners how to care for their pets. We cooperated with domestic veterinary schools, companies and associations to give lectures to pet owners. Now we are a four-person group. Our mission is to improve the lives of pets and their families by providing the absolute best pet care information.

"Due to the slow onset of traditional Chinese medicine, clients doubt whether it is effective or perhaps think we just want their money. That is really sad."

BR: How do most pet owners feel about traditional Chinese medicine vs. Western medicine for their pets?

Chen: Most pet owners here prefer Western medicine. They think Western medicine is more effective and efficient. It takes time for Chinese medicine to take effect and the owners don't want to wait that long. Since Chinese medicine takes more time—hence, takes more money—very few owners are willing to pay for it. As you may know, using Chinese medicine means they have to invest time, money and patience. Due to the slow onset of traditional Chinese medicine, clients doubt whether it is effective or perhaps think we just want their money. That is really sad. Many owners give up halfway because their expectations are not met.

BR: How do pets benefit from traditional Chinese medicine? How do they benefit from Western medicine? Is it best to use both in caring for pets?

Chen: Generally speaking, TCVM is more focused on improving the patient's physical condition, while Western medicine is more about treating the disease. I personally use both of them on my cases.

Here's an example: Diarrhea is a common symptom in many diseases. Usually we need to find the reason why the cat or dog is having diarrhea. For instance, a dog may have diarrhea because of an intestinal parasite. Besides giving antiparasitic drugs, we may also need to do IV therapy and so forth to stabilize the patient's body condition. I'll perform acupuncture on the patient when he feels better, with Tianshu, Qihai, Guanyuan and other points as my preferences. This patient recovers faster and better than those that only receive medicine. So we use Western medicine to treat the disease, and we use TCVM to promote healing and prevent what may happen in the future.

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