My dog Radar has a host of musculoskeletal ailments, including an inflamed disc in his spine and a chronic leg injury that leaves him with a perpetual limp. I’ve been treating him with reduced activity, anti-inflammatories, and painkillers, but it turns out there’s a whole field of treatment I’ve been neglecting: dog chiropractic.
Chiropractic refers to the practice of manipulating the spine to treat disease or injury. You’re probably familiar with human chiropractors, medical practitioners who offer “adjustments” for clients with back or other musculoskeletal pain. Well, animal chiropractors do the same thing for animals with spines (mostly horses and dogs). It’s been around for over a century and has gained popularity in the last 25 years.
Read on to learn what animal chiropractors do, and how they can help your dog.
What does a dog chiropractor do?
Like chiropractors for human, chiropractors for dogs offer adjustments: low-force, manual manipulation of the animal’s spinal column and/or joints. In other words, they gently touch and move your pup’s spine and joints to realign their vertebrae and/or ease stress on joints.
As part of a complete treatment, animal chiropractors also conduct neurological exams and stance and gait analysis. They evaluate your dog’s overall musculoskeletal health and provide treatment to improve mobility and lessen pain.
The goal of a chiropractic adjustment is an improved gait and an apparent reduction in pain. According to VCA Animal Hospital, chiropractic treatment can lead to immediate results. And, when applied correctly, adjustments may alleviate or even eliminate the need for long-term drug treatments.
Ailments to treat with dog chiropractic care
Chiropractic treatment is best for ailments affecting the spine and musculoskeletal system. Some of the most common conditions treated by chiropractic manipulation include:
- Degenerative joint diseases like hip dysplasia and spondylosis
- Degenerative disk disease
- Musculoskeletal weakness or pain that resists conventional treatment
- Chronic back and neck pain
- Overall stiffness or altered gait
Although some practitioners claim chiropractic can treat ailments like incontinence, muscle spasms, and internal ailments, the science behind that claim is suspect. In general, dog chiropractic treatment is best used to address spine and joint issues.
What kind of training do dog chiropractors have?
Chiropractic is considered an alternative, holistic therapy, meaning it’s practiced in conjunction with other treatments including western medicine. Anybody who practices chiropractic on animals is required to have specific training in both animal anatomy and chiropractic theories. In the U.S., the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association offers the primary national credential. In other words, any chiropractor working on your dog should have AVCA certification!
Because dog chiropractic is considered an alternative treatment, many holistic veterinarians seek certification that allows them to integrate this type of care into their practice. In fact, a veterinarian certified in animal chiropractic may be the ideal choice for those seeking dog chiropractic care. After all, your vet is a doctor with extensive anatomical training and is involved in all aspects of your dog’s health.
How to find a dog chiropractor
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Look at little miss Olive coming in for her first adjustment at 4 months old! She was so well behaved… pretty much stood, smiled, and wagged the entire time! Animal chiropractic helps create happy, healthy puppies which turn into happy, healthy adult dogs! 🐶💕. . . #animalchiropractic #animalchiro #animalchiropractor #dogchiropractor #vitalityanimalchiropractic #drerinoconnor #labradorretriever #labrador #labradorlove #labradorable #labradorpuppy #labradorpuppies #loveher #sosweet #smile #doghealth #healthiswealth
When seeking an animal chiropractor, start by asking your veterinarian for a referral. If they’re not AVCA certified themselves, they may be able to refer you to a local practitioner who is. In addition, the AVCA website has a state-by-state list of certified animal chiropractors in America.
Do not visit anyone offering dog adjustments who does not have up-to-date AVCA certification. Unskilled or inappropriate adjustments can cause permanent injury. A reputable, qualified dog chiropractor will be AVCA certified and include chiropractic treatment as an element of holistic care.
What happens in a chiropractic session
When you take your dog to the chiropractor, they’ll start with an all-over health assessment. They’ll consult with your regular veterinarian to get your dog’s medical history and important information like x-rays, surgeries, or medication.
Once the chiropractor determines the best course of treatment for your dog, they’ll perform an adjustment. The above video shows a typical chiropractic adjustment for dogs. Depending on your pup’s condition, they may need to start a round of regular treatments. For others, one adjustment may be all it takes!
Chiropractic treatment can be a life-changing addition to your dog’s veterinary care. I know I’ll be looking into it for my pup!
Hero image: Flickr / germanny