Savannah, a three year old neutered female Labrador, was successfully treated for a behavior disorder using a Chinese herbal formula. The pet’s quality of life was very compromised and did not respond to training methods, medication, or herbal treatment prescribed by the owner. For two years the dog had been exhibiting fear-based reactions around the owners, other people, different situations and other dogs. The behavior was inconsistent and unpredictable, varying from startle reactions, panic, wildly barking and growling, to not recognizing the owners and acting fearful. These behaviors appeared to begin after severe illness as a puppy. The owners remember Savannah as being very loving when first adopted.
Previous treatment included Phenobarbital, Florentine, and behavior modification with different trainers .These approaches were unsuccessful. One of the dog’s owners had studied Traditional Chinese Medicine and tried several herbal therapies. These were Shen Calmer, Er Yin Jian, and Free and Easy Wanderer. None of these remedies resulted in improvement. Recently the pet had developed white hairs in the genital region.
Savannah was examined on 10/22/08. She was very timid and fled from the examiner on approach. A muzzle was necessary for examination. The dog was found to be in very good physical condition. Her coat was normal but she exhibited white hairs at the chin and groin area. During the office call she began barking wildly at the closed exam room door and startled easily at any sound from within or without the room.
The TCVM examination revealed bilateral wiry pulses that were stronger on the left. Due to the patient’s fear, tongue evaluation was not possible. No obvious sensitivities were noted. Her owners reported that Savannah tended to act hot. She had always had a strong odor, and liked to eat grass. Her digestion, however, was normal and she slept well.
Savannah was determined to have a Water personality. She was diagnosed as having a Shen disturbance with Phlegm Fire Flaring Upward. This was based on her strong nature with no deficiencies, and her excessive and strange behavior. A strong odor is also consistent with Phlegm Fire. The treatment principles in this case were to clear Fire/Heat, transform Phlegm, calm the Heart and tranquilize the Mind. This was accomplished by application of the herbal formula Zhen Xin San. Savannah was placed on a dose starting at ½ teaspoon twice daily and increased to 1½ teaspoons twice daily for a duration of at least three months.
Within a week of starting the herbal formula the owners reported the pet was less reactive to stimuli while on a walk. This level of normal behavior was remarkable to them given her past erratic behavior. A month after starting therapy the owners reported that Savannah was doing very well. She was acting happier and more peaceful, and reacting more normally to her environment. Also the owners noticed the recent white hair growth was being replaced by normal coloration. The pet has continued on herbal therapy.
Behavioral disorders can be classified as Shen Disturbance. Successful treatment relies on pattern differentiation. Savannah’s symptoms were hyperactivity and strong, unpredictable behavior, even a strong odor. All of these combined with the young age of the patient suggested an excess condition. The strange behavior she exhibited was certainly consistent with Phlegm (1). A possible etiology of the Phlegm Fire was Savannah’s early illness. She had been ill for a total of seventeen weeks when she was young. These illnesses were in the form of a severe case of Bordetella, a related lacrimal sac infection, and then a nasal vaccine reaction.
These episodes may have created Blood Heat, boiling fluid to become Phlegm. Phlegm Fire then flares up to create disturbances of the Mind. A possibly related symptom was the recent development of premature white hair, which is resolving with herbal treatment. Losing hair pigmentation is a symptom of Kidney Jing Deficiency(2). With Savannah’s several illnesses as a young animal, it could be that her Prenatal Jing was not strong. Havng two years of stress in the form of mental distress would tax the Post Natal Jing. As she seems to be recovering without benefit of a Jing tonic, the latter appears more likely. Of interest are the formulas that were insufficient to the task of improving Savannah’s condition.
Western medication and training were not helpful. The owner attempted to treat with several different herbal formulas that are known to help Shen disturbances. Shen Calmer would benefit a patient with Heart Yin and Blood deficiency. Er Yin Jian, also called Double Yin Tonic, would more suit a patient with false heat symptoms. Free and Easy Wanderer, or Xiao Yao San, is indicated for Liver Qi Stagnation. Savannah’s behavior symptoms were of an excess pattern with Phlegm Fire. The appropriate herbal remedy was Zhen Xin San. It contains herbs to clear Heat and drain Phlegm(3). The patient responded rapidly to this formula and the treatment plan is to treat for three months then attempt to withdraw the formula.
Many thanks to Dr. Lisa Trevisanello of the Chi Institute for her help with this case.
Chi Institute Class Notes: TCVM Clinical Approach/Herbology: Lung/Heart Module. Feb 2004.
Maciocia, Giovanni. The Foundations of Chinese Medicine. 1989 Churchill Livingstone.
Jing Tang Website: www.tcvmherbal.com.