Animal Chiropractic

By Jill Firth PG Dip(AM) CertEd

Chiropractic deals mainly with the spine and the relationship of the spine with the nervous system.  The spine houses and protects the spinal cord and is made up of individual bones called vertebra.

Spinal nerves emerge between each vertebra and go to all areas of the body carrying messages to and from the brain.

The vertebrae articulate together to produce movement.  There are many joints in the equine and canine spine between the base of the skull and the tail and each joint has a normal range of motion.  Spinal flexibility and mobility are adversely affected when a joint cannot move through its full range of motion, in addition, muscle and nerve function can also be compromised.  This can produce a variety of symptoms such as :-

  • having difficulty jumping up or down (dogs)
  • crying when getting up or lying down (dogs)
  • a reluctance to play or exercise
  • a change in posture
  • a change in gait
  • difficulty with correct canter lead in horses
  • refusing jumps
  • difficultly maintaining an outline (horses)
  • a change in behaviour
  • lameness or limb dragging
  • pain or discomfort

Chiropractic assessment usually includes posture and gait analysis.  This will involve visual inspection of the animal and watching the animal move to identifying gait abnormalities, asymmetries and stiffness.

Palpation (examine by feeling with the hands) of the joints and muscles of the animal’s body usually reveals any muscle spasm, asymmetries and areas of tension and tenderness. The position of each vertebra is assessed with respect to its neighbouring vertebrae, as well as the alignment of the pelvis.  Muscle spasm and misalignments can irritate nerves and interfere with the messages being sent to various areas of the animal’s body.  The assessment will also evaluate the range of movement in the joints of the shoulders, hips and legs as well as checking proprioception.

Misalignments and deficiencies in joint mobility are corrected by chiropractic adjustments.

Chiropractic is a holistic treatment, performed by hand, which delivers a short sharp thrust to a specific area in order to release muscle spasm, return the joint to its normal range of motion and create the right conditions for the body to heal itself.  The correction of a misalignment relies upon the speed of the adjustment and not the force, and is a relaxing treatment readily accepted by most animals.

As well as neck and back pain, many lamenesses and more long standing problems such as arthritis and hip dysplasia can respond well to chiropractic care.  Whenever there is a loss of flexibility in any part of the skeleton the animal develops compensatory strategies, such as a stiff neck, over developed front end, a short stride or other changes in gait.  Chiropractic for animals with chronic problems can improve flexibility and help to alleviate pain.

Regular chiropractic check ups will benefit all animals, regardless of age, breed or activity levels by restoring and maintaining flexibility and helping to decrease the chance of developing musculoskeletal disorders.

As with all non-veterinary complementary therapies, animal practitioners will only treat an animal with veterinary consent.

Depending on the symptoms, Animal Chiropractic is sometimes used in conjunction with Animal Acupuncture

There are several other Animal Complementary Therapies which may be of benefit