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making pets whole part 3: chiropractic treatments

  • Dr. Kim
  • Posted by Dr. Kim Smyth on
    Staff Veterinarian and Pet Health Writer of Petplan

Today we conclude our week long look into alternative treatments for pets with a primer on chiropractic care for pets, which is based on spinal manipulation and has been performed on humans for centuries. Much like homeopathy, herbal medicines and acupuncture, veterinary chiropractic care offers veterinarians and pet parents another avenue of treatment to deal with health problems that affect our furry family members.  

Injury to the vertebral column and associated muscles, tendons and ligaments can occur any time, in any animal. Specific trauma, such as what a dog or cat might encounter in a car accident or a fall, can certainly cause the alignment of the spine to be off, but so can landing wrong after an awkward jump. Chiropractic work aims to realign the spine using massage-like manipulation.


Spinal adjustments can correct pain in the back or neck, but the theory of chiropractic adjustments goes a little deeper. It focuses on the dysfunction of the spine and its effect on the entire nervous system throughout the body.


More specifically, chiropractors believe that dysfunction of the spine causes impairment of organs that rely on innervation from specific spinal vertebrae, with each section of the spine corresponding to different organs. The theory is that impaired energy (“chi” or “qi”) from a subluxated vertebrae will cause blockage and weakness in the associated organs and their functions. 


Many conditions can be addressed by chiropractic work, including:

  • Pain in the neck, back or tail
  • Trouble chewing or jaw pain
  • Muscle spasms
  • Bowel or bladder disorders
  • Chronic illnesses


Some animals will respond immediately following their first adjustment, while others may need multiple sessions. Carrying pet insurance that covers both chronic conditions as well as alternative therapy such as chiropractic care, like Petplan, can help make the cost of caring for your pet more manageable. 


As with the other holistic modalities we have discussed, veterinary chiropractic is not meant to replace traditional veterinary care. It is important that your regular veterinarian examines your pet before seeking a veterinary chiropractor.


Though rare, chiropractic work can cause serious injury, even if performed by a trained chiropractor, so it is important to be sure the practitioner is a veterinarian who has had special training above their general veterinary training. Furthermore, animal chiropractic is controversial, with no published studies of its efficacy.


There is plenty of anecdotal evidence that suggests it can be effective, however, so if you feel like checking into it, consult with your regular veterinarian first. If he or she agrees, perhaps they could recommend a specialist in your town. If not, visit the website of the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association (http://www.animalchiropractic.org/) to search for a veterinary chiropractor in your state.

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Posted by Jan Beale
on December 17 2012 13:00

I am so glad to see this! Many years ago, in the 80's, I had a second part-time job working at the front desk in a chiropractor's office. there were three chiropractors, and the newest one, treated doggies as well. My little girl, Suzie, a cocker mix, was having some back issues, and he did a few treatments on her, and it helped her so much. I am a huge believer in vet medicine as well as alternative medicine. Thank you for posting this!

Posted by Kay Steffen
on December 17 2012 10:05

Thanks for this info and covering alternative medicine

Posted by stephanie ciarvella
on December 17 2012 09:00

My Great Dane Celest tore her ACL and CCL I cant help but think holistic and chiropractic work will help her manage her pain. The problem, pet plan requires a recommendation from her vet to cover her costs. My vet is a great vet however he doesn't believe in holistic medicine therefore our baby cannot get the extra care she needs and must take pain medication a few times a week.

Posted by Deana Hudgins
on December 17 2012 08:59

Both of my golden retrievers are search and rescue dogs. The demands put on their bodies can be extreme. I started working with a veterinary chiropractor after one of my dogs sustained a lower back injury. I have had such a positive response that I continue to have both dogs adjusted every three weeks for maintenance. The dogs love it, my 9 year old pushes my 3 year old out of the way and backs himself up to the doctor so that he can receive his adjustment first!

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