Do pets benefit from chiropractic adjustments?
by Angela Ardolino
When my senior schnauzer, Odie, started having a hacking cough, it broke my heart. Odie had overcome so many medical issues through homeopathic remedies, like CBD, and I knew that there had to be something I could do to help him stop coughing every time he barked.
When I met Dr. Carolyn Scott, holistic veterinarian and chiropractor, she assured me that a chiropractic adjustment could help my sweet boy. Within one treatment, Odie was completely different. His hacking cough was dramatically reduced and he seemed like his old self.
I spoke with Dr. Scott about the benefits of getting regular adjustments for your pet and what she shared may surprise you.
Q: What are the benefits of chiropractic care for dogs, and what aliments can be treated? Can cats benefit?
A: Dogs can certainly benefit from chiropractic if they have neck or back pain. Dogs, all animals really, can benefit if they are lame or limping or are walking “funny” or the top line is off. Chiropractic can also help with general mobility in older or arthritic animals. In horses, chiropractic can help alleviate the pain and discomfort from colic. Absolutely have the horse evaluated by the usual veterinarian. When the colic has resolved bring the horse in for chiropractic to then alleviate associated discomfort.
For dogs who have undergone surgery: chiropractic will help relieve the soreness form lying in one position for the duration of the surgery.
Chiropractic will also help normalize function. The brain is constantly getting feedback from all muscles, joints and organs in animals and people. This feedback maintains a steady state. Most nerves (but not all), from muscles, joints, tendons, organs et cetera go through the spinal cord. If the muscles, joints or organs are restricted in their normal range of motion it can cause pain and dysfunction. Chiropractic adjustments can restore the normal ranges of motion which will in turn decrease pain and dysfunction.
All animals can benefit from chiropractic not just dogs, horses and people. Cats, cows, and even gorillas can all benefit.
Q: What types of ailments acupuncture can help?
A: Acupuncture can help with pain and dysfunction. Most people and animals come to chiropractic and acupuncture because traditional Western Medicine hasn’t worked. Alternative care is often care of last resort. As such acupuncture has been used for a variety of disorders from ulcers to nose bleeds to bed wetting in humans and inappropriate elimination in cats (urinating / defecating outside the litter box). Not everything works in everybody but chiropractic and acupuncture are always worth a try. I treated a dog that couldn’t walk from hind end lameness not due to cancer or FCE (fibrocartilaginous embolus- usually needs surgery). She got acupuncture for 10 treatments. By the end of her treatment she was walking! She needed help getting up the steps into her house but could walk around in the yard and in her home!
I also do laser therapy. Laser is excellent for speeding up healing. All cells in the body need energy like a car needs gas. Laser provides energy (at the proper wavelength of laser) directly to the cells. Normally this energy comes from food. But if you or your dog are athletic or arthritic or have and injury you may not be getting enough energy from the food for the extra demand. Laser therapy will help speed up healing by providing energy directly to the cells.
Q: What is a chiropractic procedure like for animals? Is it similar to humans?
A: Adjusting animals is exactly like adjusting people. It provides a high velocity low amplitude thrust into a restricted joint. This gaps the joint and it returns to it’s normal range of motion. I think of it like watching beach volleyball. The courts are marked off by colored string. Sometimes a player lands on the string or slides into it, this makes the string not straight anymore. The player will then lift the line out of the sand and let it snap back into the correct place. This is a good way to visualize how chiropractic works. I gap the joints slightly and allow them to come back together in the correct place.
Q: How long does an adjustment take?
A: Adjustments on small animals- dogs, cats and the like- take about 20 minutes. Adjustments on horses take 45 minutes to an hour each horse. Sometimes a more involved injury or issue will take longer.
Q: Are there any risks? Is it safer than other treatments?
A: Chiropractic is very safe IF performed by a trained professional. Do not let anyone untrained near your animal. In Florida, a Doctor of Chiropractic, DC, must be certified to work on animals AND have a prescription from a veterinarian to do chiropractic on animals. A veterinarian, DVM, does not need a certification. I am one of the few people in the world that has both a DC and a DVM degree! I also have a Certification (although not needed) from the International Veterinary Chiropractic Association.
When performed by a qualified person there are very few risks. Sometimes the animal or person won’t feel any improvement for 24 hours after an adjustment. Some feel immediate relief. All bodies are different when they feel relief.
My procedure is to palpate the dog – run my hands over the dogs back and down all the legs and tail. I’m feeling for areas that are warmer than the surrounding areas. I’m also looking for areas that twitch when I palpate them. This often indicates a joint that is restricted / subluxated. After the overall palpation I specifically palpate all of the joints I can get to – some are too deep inside the dog to reach, testing their range of motion (ROM). If I find a joint restriction / subluxation I adjust it as I go along. I check the spine, all 4 legs, the tail, the jaw and the ribs. The first time and animal or person is adjusted they are often a bit apprehensive. The 2ndvisit they are usually very happy to be there and walk right up on the bale on their own! The animals love to be adjusted!
Q: Tell me about a dog you’ve treated with great success.
A: I work with a lot of dog athletes. It’s very rewarding for me to have the owner tell me their dog is popping out of the agility weave poles at pole 10 (there are 12 poles). I adjust the dog then they fly through the weave poles and qualify on that run! [Complete the run under time and with no mistakes.] I’ve also had Dock Diving dogs increase their horizontal distance by 6 feet after an adjustment! Increasing mobility and flexibility in their hips and back legs so they can collect better and take off better. Also, the dog I mentioned above that is now walking again makes me, and the dog, very happy!
Q: Are regular adjustment important or are things fixed in 2 or 3 visits?
A: Generally for most dogs once a month chiropractic treatment works great. Think of this like sitting hunched over at a computer all day every day. Your neck and back take a beating. Dogs doing the same thing day after day has the same effect on their spine. If something happens to the dog, they fall off the couch or miss jumping up onto the bed, they will need to come to see me right away. Also if dogs play hard and certainly if God forbid, your dog is attacked by another dog bring them to your usual veterinarian to look for puncture wounds. Then bring them to me for chiropractic care. Dogs that were attacked will probably need more than 1 visit. Dog attacks are like car accidents in people. Any matter of injuries can happen, and there are all different severities. The sooner your dog sees me the faster your dog will heal. After these injuries have resolved the dogs can usually go back to monthly care. My athletes are usually treated after each competition.
Q: Anything else I think pet parents should know?
A: Good nutrition is very important in dog and human health! One aspect pet parents often overlook is the calories their dog is getting from treats and table scraps in addition to their regular food. I am happy to help people decide on a good food for their dog. There are good food choices in all price ranges.