Chiropractic care for animals

15 Jun


You may be familiar with chiropractic care for yourself, but are you aware that chiropractic care is also beneficial for your dog or horse?

Chiropractic care is a holistic approach in treating performance problems in dogs and horses. This approach is not intended to replace traditional veterinarian practice or surgery, but is intended to focus its care on the spinal column.

The spinal column of an animal is made up of vertebrae, discs, ligaments, muscles, nerves and soft tissue. The spineʼs function is to supportgallery-thumbnails the framework of the body, protect the central nervous system and also protect some internal organs. When a vertebra is misaligned a chiropractor refers to this as a subluxation. A subluxed vertebra can cause stiffness, resistance and the inability for normal function for the animal. Symptoms can also include pain and irritability.

Subluxations can also cause nerve problems. When a misaligned vertebra is within a bundle of nerves they can become pinched and cause interference in the nerves. Every movement from a simple tail wag to a horse transitioning into a trot can be affected if there is a pinched nerve somewhere within the spinal column. Subluxations can also cause the animal to over compensate another area of their body in movement or posture, causing the body to be out of balance.

Subluxations can be caused by lack of muscle surrounding the vertebra. Keeping your animal fit and trim can help keep the spinal column aligned. However, at times subluxations can be caused by trauma, such as jumping with horses, or agility for dogs. In horses it can simply be an ill fitted saddle, confinement in their stall, or a rider who does not have a balanced seat.

A lot of human chiropractors are able to adjust our four legged friends as well. These chiropractors, and licensed physicians or veterinarians, can take an additional course seeking certification in Animal Chiropractic by the Animal Chiropractic Certification Commission of the AVCA and must meet or exceed the minimum level of competency in the examinations set by the Examining

When subluxations are detected through palpation and/or x-ray, the chiropractor will adjust the misalignment either manually, with controlled force, or by using a hand held tool called an activator. The activator is a small handheld spring-loaded instrument which delivers a small impulse to the spine. It was found to give off no more than 0.3 J of kinetic energy in a 3-millisecond pulse. The aim is to produce enough force to move the vertebrae but not enough to cause injury.

The adjustment releases the “stuck” vertebra, restores alignment and nerve function, allowing energy to move freely through the body. If a lot of subluxations are present, there may be the need for several adjustments and frequent visits until the body can maintain proper alignment.

How do you know if your horse or dog needs to be seen by a chiropractor? Here are some signs

  1. Have they recently changed behavior? Are they working below their normal ability?
  2. Is there lameness present?
  3. Is the animal dragging their feet?
  4. Are they in obvious distress or discomfort?
  5. Are they holding their head or neck differently?
  6. Stiffness and difficulty bending
  7. if you apply moderate pressure down the spine, does the animal flinch or try to moveaway from the pressure?       gallery-thumbnails-4

Chiropractic care is a cost effective way to keep your animal free of pain or prevent a potentially more severe injury. For more information on finding a chiropractor for your animal visit

Written by:  Brenda M. Tobin-Flood, Cert. C.N.


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