In this video above, Dr. Karen Becker discusses how veterinary chiropractic
care can help pets with a wide range of health conditions – everything from joint problems to urinary incontinence.
By Dr. Becker
Chiropractic comes from the Greek words 'cheir' (which means 'hand'), and 'praxis'
(which means 'done by hand').
Chiropractic has been
a popular form of therapy for humans for centuries, but veterinary chiropractic has only gained acceptance in the traditional
vet community in the last 15 years.
Chiropractic is based
on manual spinal manipulation.
It uses the body's own
healing abilities and the relationship between the spine and the nervous system to restore and maintain good health.
Chiropractic therapy focuses on the vertebral column.
The goal is to alter the progression of the disease process
and restore the critical relationship between the spine and the central nervous system.
Chiropractic actually has its own language. Vertebral lesions are called subluxations and describe
vertebra with an abnormal positional relationship.
other words, when bones in the spine are out of position in relation to one another, and if they are not moving properly,
then this vertebral alignment problem creates disturbances in the way the body moves, which interferes with nerve function.
These disturbances are called vertebral subluxation complexes
or VSCs. They are also called segmental dysfunction.
Signs Your Pet May Have a Subluxation
Symptoms in a pet with a subluxation can range from mild to severe. Generally, if there is pain, you'll notice a change
in your pet's behavior.
A dog in pain will often
pant more than normal. He also might pace or yelp. He may sit or stand in an abnormal, awkward position. He might also show
problems with his coordination.
He might drag a foot,
or move his head or tail strangely. Sometimes there is discomfort when a collar or harness is put on.
Dogs and cats may refuse to jump up on things or move in normal ways. Some pets will
develop fear biting because of the pain. Many show sensitivity to being touched in certain places on their body.
Sometimes you can even detect a pain response in your pet's
And then there are the sort of
normal signs of pain like excessive vocalizing – yelling, yowling, and even screaming.
All these signs are indications your pet is having a pain response, and in fact,
she may be in much more pain than you're aware of.
can cause other problems as well, including stiffness, lameness, difficulty going up and down stairs, muscle atrophy, changes
in gait like 'sidewinding' or 'crabbing', stumbling, weakness and paralysis.
Diagnosis and Treatment
When you take your pet to a veterinary chiropractor, the first thing he or she will do is get a history on your pet,
including information about her lifestyle and her overall health status. The chiropractor will also want to see any prior
x-rays taken on your pet.
A chiropractic exam includes
a neurologic assessment, an evaluation of stance and gait, motion, and static palpation.
Each abnormality in positioning that is discovered during the exam will be corrected
through manipulations, which are called adjustments.
American Veterinary Chiropractic Association defines an adjustment as, "a short lever, high velocity controlled
thrust by a hand or instrument that is directed at specific articulations to correct vertebral subluxations."
Adjustments can be performed on vertebral joints, extremity
joints, and cranial sutures. The goal of an adjustment is to restore normal position and movement of the vertebral column,
which in turn improves neurologic function.
respond well to adjustments. They are instinctively aware of the problem in their body, and most of the time they are pretty
tolerant of the chiropractor's manipulations. In fact – and I've seen this in my own practice – some pets actually
adjust their position to help the chiropractor in treating the subluxation.
How Chiropractic Care Helps Pets
Chiropractic care is an excellent way to prevent and treat joint degeneration in your pet. Proper vertebral alignment keeps the body from shifting into unhealthy positions to compensate for joint pain
caused by injury or degeneration.
Regular manual orthopedic
manipulation, especially with large and giant breed dogs, will help keep the musculoskeletal system from degenerating as the aging process occurs. It can also help keep your pet
moving comfortably throughout her whole life.
with floating kneecaps can benefit greatly from chiropractic adjustments to keep the hips and knees in alignment and to help prevent the condition
Dogs with hip dysplasia can avoid compensating injuries through chiropractic adjustments as well.
Some pets with urinary incontinence are helped by chiropractic adjustments, and I have seen many cases in my practice of improved bladder tone and neurologic
function through maintenance chiropractic care.
your pet has been injured, a veterinary chiropractor can help realign the spine to avoid compensating injuries from occurring
in addition to the underlying primary injury.
your pet has had surgery with general anesthesia, I always recommend a visit to the veterinary chiropractor afterwards to realign a body that has potentially been flopping
or jerking around while the animal was anesthetized.
also recommend maintenance chiropractic care proactively for all my patients to reduce the risk of injury and joint degeneration.
This is especially good for puppies and kittens because they are 'loose' – their joints are not yet completely formed.
Their bones are still growing and they're prone to subluxations.
Other conditions that often respond well to chiropractic care include:
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- Difficulty chewing or swallowing
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- Sporting or working dog injuries
- Muscle spasms
and nerve problems
- Bowel, bladder and other internal organ disorders
- Injuries from slips, falls, accidents
- Maintenance of joint and spine health
I have also seen dramatic improvement using
chiropractic for patients with internal medical issues, for example chronic constipation.
Finding a Licensed Practitioner
If you decide to explore chiropractic care for your pet, it's important to find a
practitioner who is licensed for pets.
can become licensed to treat pets, but only after special training. Two-legged animals (humans) have an entirely different
biochemical system than four-legged pets. So you must insure that the practitioner you choose to care for your dog or cat,
whether it's a veterinarian or a chiropractor, is certified to perform chiropractic on animals.