Traumatic injuries, postoperative complications, conformation problems, excess weight, hereditary conditions, and congenital defects can all cause spinal misalignments in pets, and result in significant health issues. Our team at Creature Comforts Veterinary Service wants to explain how chiropractic care can benefit your pet by answering some frequently asked questions about this treatment modality.

Question: What is chiropractic care in pets?

Answer: The word chiropractic is derived from the Greek words “cheir,” meaning hand, and “praxis,” meaning practice, and defined as integrative medicine based on the diagnosis and manipulative treatment of joint misalignments, especially those involving the spine, which in turn can affect the nerves, muscles, and organs, and cause other disorders. Humans have practiced spinal manipulation for centuries, originating in early Chinese and Greek cultures, but modern chiropractic theory and practice has developed only in the last century. Chiropractic care may be relatively new to conventional veterinary medicine, but offers numerous benefits for pets, typically in conjunction with traditional veterinary medicine and surgery.

Q: What pets can benefit from chiropractic care?

A: Chiropractic manipulation is most commonly performed on horses, dogs, and cats, but can theoretically be performed on any vertebrate pet or animal.

Q: What conditions in pets are treated with chiropractic manipulation?

A: A misaligned spine can cause numerous problems, including decreased spinal mobility, abnormal spinal position, nerve tissue irritation, localized inflammation, degenerative changes, and, depending on the structural imbalance, excessively tight or weak and atrophied muscles. These issues can manifest in many ways, and many conditions can be treated by chiropractic manipulation, including:

  • Chronic musculoskeletal problems — Chiropractic care can help with conditions, such as osteoarthritis, that chronically affect the bones, muscles, and connective tissues.
  • Joint pathologies — Chiropractic care can be used to treat conditions such as hip dysplasia, intervertebral disc disease, and cranial cruciate ligament rupture.
  • Postoperative complications — Conditions that affect pets following surgery, such as stiffness, muscle spasms, and nerve problems, can be addressed with chiropractic care.
  • Lick granulomas — A 2003 study demonstrated that chiropractic care could successfully treat lick granulomas in dogs.
  • Incontinence — If a spinal misalignment is causing nerve interference between the brain and the urinary system, chiropractic care can improve urinary incontinence.
  • Separation anxiety — Anecdotally, chiropractic care has successfully addressed separation anxiety in pets. 

In addition to treating pets who are ill or lame, chiropractic care can be used to maintain fitness and enhance performance in pet athletes or pets used for other working purposes. Maintaining maximum flexibility in these pets can also help prevent injuries. 

Q: Do all veterinarians practice chiropractic care for pets?

A: No. People who practice chiropractic care on pets must be trained specifically in chiropractic theories and be knowledgeable about biomechanical and neuromusculoskeletal function in pets. The American Veterinary Chiropractic Association (AVCA) certifies those who have undergone post-graduate animal chiropractic training. An animal chiropractor is a doctor of chiropractic with AVCA certification, a veterinarian certified in animal chiropractic is a veterinarian with AVCA certification, and a veterinary chiropractor is someone who is a doctor of chiropractic and a doctor of veterinary medicine. 

Q: What signs indicate that my pet’s spine is misaligned?

A: Spinal misalignments can manifest in many different ways, including:

  • Musculoskeletal pain — Spinal misalignment can result in musculoskeletal pain. A pet who seems sensitive to touch, develops an aversion to grooming, or vocalizes when their back or neck are touched, may be signaling neck or back pain in these areas. 
  • Muscle stiffness — Spinal misalignment can cause muscle stiffness and tension. 
  • Lameness — Lameness in one or several limbs and difficulty jumping or climbing stairs can result from a spinal misalignment.
  • Abnormal posture — A spinal misalignment can result in abnormal postures, such as puppy sitting (i.e., sitting with their legs out to the side) or carrying their tail to one side.

Q: What happens during a typical pet chiropractic session?

A: During the first appointment, our veterinary professionals will thoroughly examine your pet, observing how they move, stand, and sit. They will palpate and manipulate your pet’s neck, back, and limbs, probing for uncomfortable areas or asymmetry. They may also take X-rays. Adjustments will be performed as needed, and most pets accept the attention without difficulty.

Q: How often will my pet need a chiropractic adjustment?

A: Most pets require more than one session, and some pets need ongoing sessions to mitigate chronic issues. Your pet’s condition will determine how frequently they need adjusting. 

Q: Can chiropractic adjustment on pets be dangerous?

A: When performed by an experienced, trained veterinary professional, chiropractic care is generally safe for pets. They may have some mild discomfort following treatment, but this should resolve in 24 to 48 hours. Some pets are also tired after a chiropractic session, and they may sleep for the rest of the day.

Chiropractic care can complement traditional treatment to address numerous health issues. If you think your pet can benefit from a chiropractic adjustment, contact our team at Creature Comforts Veterinary Service to schedule an appointment.