Welcome to Acu in Practice and Happy Earth Day! In honor of the day, and our planet, we will be featuring the Earth element. The best example of an Earth element animal is the Labrador. Characteristics of this element when in balance include: laid back, friendly, gets along well with others, likes to keep the peace, loves attention but does not have to be the center of attention, good at making decisions, strong digestion with a good appetite (I think most labs try for excellent appetite!) When out of balance, or during the aging process, the Earth element can become more nervous due to worry, may stick like Velcro to their owner, can experience digestive issues such as stress diarrhea or may overeat causing an accumulation of fat (Damp in TCM), and have difficulty making decisions.
The Earth element is associated with the Spleen organ in TCM, which also includes the pancreas and intestinal villa. When the Earth/Spleen is not in balance, we see accumulation of Damp, which “clogs” the flow of digestive energy and may result in Damp and Heat throughout the body. Examples include: pancreatitis, irritable bowel disorders, bladder infections and stones, asthma, fatty tumors, skin and ear infections that are “sticky” or “oozy” or “oily.” When the Earth/Spleen becomes weak, especially with age, we may see inability to gain or maintain weight, loose stools, muscle condition loss, Blood deficiency signs, and general lethargy. These are all signs of Spleen Qi (Energy) deficiency.
Your integrative veterinarian will ask detailed questions about your pet to determine which elements or organs are out of balance. Questions regarding preferences, behaviors and personality help us to determine your pet’s Elemental constitution and your answers provide us with additional information helping to figure out why your pet may be struggling or how to prevent imbalances in the future.
Pictured here are two of my favorite Earth elementals:
Bella is a yellow lab who first presented for extreme lethargy, weakness, arthritis and anemia. All of these fall into the Spleen Qi deficiency category with a combination of Kidney deficiency (the Kidneys tire with age too!). Since the Spleen is one of the major organs producing Blood, it is not surprising that if it is weak there is not enough blood to fill the vessels or nourish the muscles. The arthritis is categorized as Bony Bi syndrome and is developed over time due to Kidney energy declining, lack of body fluids to nourish the bones, and the accumulation of Damp that eventually becomes a more permanent form, Phlegm. Using acupuncture, herbs, and food therapy, your integrative vet can help to support the Spleen and the Kidney, and to resolve some of the Phlegm. Acupuncture also contributes to releasing muscle tension and removing Stagnation so that the flow of Blood and Qi are restored and your pet feels less painful. In this picture, Bella is receiving elecro-stimulation acu in order to stimulate her muscle fibers and nerves, reducing hind limb weakness and resulting in greater pain relief through endorphin release.
Gunner on the other hand is a healthy 7 year old Labrador who is just beginning to enter into the Pre-Senior phase of his life. This is a great time for a dog to start veterinary acupuncture. At this phase, your integrative vet is able to alleviate musculoskeletal tension that is beginning to creep in, helping to delay the formation of arthritis. Food therapy can also be used to begin supporting any organs or tissues that may soon experience deficiencies due to age.
A great acupuncture point RX for either phase is:
BL 20 – support the spleen, alleviate mid back tension
BL 23 – support the kidney, alleviate low back tension.
GB 21 – alleviate tension in the neck, shoulder and forelimb
LIV 13 – increase flow of Qi through the Liver
ST 36 + SP 6 – move and nourish Qi and Blood, tonify Spleen.
Add in any points that will relieve local tension that is found on physical exam.
Add in any points for imbalances such as Heat, Damp, Wind.
Thank you to Earth and our Earth elements for providing us with stability, loyalty, and unconditional love.
This post was created by Nell Ostermeier, DVM, CVA, FAAVA and is intended to information use, not to replace veterinary medical advice.