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Chiropractic care for animals: It’s not magic—it’s neurology

With the trend in veterinary medicine expanding its offerings to the same as those treatments offered in human medicine, it’s no wonder that alternative medical care options for animals are now available for our pets on a regular basis. In recent years, holistic hands-on healing methods commonly used for people are now offered for our animal companions.

Chiropractic care, massage therapy, acupuncture, physical rehabilitation, and aquatic fitness are all examples of alternative treatments available for animals in our community. They all work slightly differently but are usually extremely effective for all the same reasons they work for you and me. They improve much more than just joint health.

One example is veterinary chiropractic care, also known as Veterinary Spinal Manipulation Therapy, which is the practice of manipulating the spine and joints to ease restricted body movement. When pets can’t move the way they should, it can result in pain and loss of mobility leading to all kinds of health problems. Chiropractic treatment is one of the few procedures in veterinary medicine where results are often immediate and may be seen within minutes of treatment.

The key is to understand how the spine relates to the nervous system and various other body systems. By making chiropractic adjustments, we are able to improve the communication between these systems, effectively slowing disease, relieving pain, and restoring health. The good news is that most dogs and cats can benefit from chiropractic care regardless of their age or pain level.

Chiropractic treatment works well to treat and improve many chronic conditions that relate to all the body systems. Problems such as arthritis, hip dysplasia, urinary and fecal incontinence, and general muscle weakness can all respond well to chiropractic treatments. Ensuring the normal range of motion of the spine and neck helps improves communication between the central nervous system and various body systems.

This “tunes up” the body and allows it to work efficiently again. In some cases, this “tune up” can actually help eliminate the need for some long-term drug treatments. Successful treatment often depends on how severe the disease is and how long the patient has had the problem.

A veterinary chiropractor may recommend x-rays prior to beginning spinal adjustments to ensure the safest and best options for treatment, but also to understand the nature of the disease. Stretching, gait analysis, and changes in exercise or lifestyle may also be recommended, depending on the specific needs of your pet. Once the treatment process is started, a typical appointment may take up to an hour.

A veterinary chiropractic adjustment may consist of a light massage, as well as deeper force manipulations of the spine and extremities. Results of chiropractic care can include higher energy, increased balance and coordination, and an overall improvement in quality of life.

Many owners find that with regular adjustments, their pets find relief from pain and long-term issues. Even after improvement is noticed and pain decreases, regular wellness visits are still an important part of successful treatment since pain is often one of the last signs our bodies give when there is an underlying problem.

Chiropractic therapy is often combined with other types of veterinary medicine. Acupuncture and chiropractic in particular seem to work well together, so a veterinary chiropractor may suggest combined therapy to enhance the positive course of treatment.

A veterinary chiropractor may also recommend exercises to be done at home or physical therapy. If you decide to pursue veterinary chiropractic care for your pet, it is best to do a bit of research. There is specialized training that a veterinarian needs to have to successfully treat dogs, cats, and horses. There are some human chiropractors who work on animals. They must have specific training in both chiropractic theory and animal anatomy so that they are knowledgeable about the differences between humans and animals. It is a good idea to ask about a doctor’s formal training if you are looking for a veterinary chiropractor.

To give your pet the best chance at restored health, talk with your regular veterinarian about alternative therapies. There are many choices out there, but it is important that your pet’s doctor is involved in the process.

Ilana Strubel, DVM, CVSMT, CCRT is the owner of A Well Adjusted Pet,  an integrative veterinary practice. She is a certified canine rehabilitation therapist who specializes in hydro-therapy, physical rehabilitation, and chiropractic care, as well as acupressure, herbal medicine, canine behavior, and nutrition. She sees patients on a mobile basis and also at The Rex Center, a holistic canine fitness center in Pacifica. For more information about chiropractic services at A Well Adjusted Petvisit:

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