An Introduction to Animal Chiropractic

Animal chiropractic is a form of alternative medicine for animals that is steadily increasing in popularity. Similar to human chiropractic, it can be helpful for a variety of conditions that affect animals. My practice focuses on horses, dogs and cats.

Back pain is the most common indication for chiropractic in animals. Back pain in animals can range from slightly uncomfortable to agonizingly painful, and should be taken seriously by owner and veterinarian. Not only can it cause intense and prolonoged suffering, it can indicate changes in the spine which can lead to intervertebral disc herniation, which can cause neurologic impairment, including paralysis and subsequent euthanasia.


Animals with back pain can present with a variety of symptoms, ranging from decreased willingness to jump up, reluctance to climb stairs, crying out or whimpering, trembling, lethargy, carrying the neck low or the back arched, or just "not feeling himself". Stiffness and soreness following exercise and exertion are other common symptoms.


If your pet is showing any of these symptoms, or other symptoms that concern you, talk to your veterinarian. Have your pet examined and consider having some x-rays done. Then ask your veterinarian about animal chiropractic, and if he/she can provide a referral to a veterinarian certified in Animal Chiropractic.


Keep in mind that chiropractic is not taught in veterinary school, so most veterinarians do not have much experience with it.  Don't be discouraged if your veterinarian doesn't know if chiropractic will help your pet, or doesn't suggest it to you.  If you think chiropractic might help your pet, you're probably right!


Horses usually benefit from chiropractic too. Horses often develop subluxations of the spine caused or exacerbated by being saddled, ridden, trailered and worked.  Many serious equine competitors have their horses adjusted routinely as part of their regular care to keep them performing at their best, just as many human athletes have regular chiropractic care. 


Common symptoms of horse chiropractic problems may include the following:


  • fussing with the bit or when being bridled
  • fussiness, discomfort, or impatience with being saddled or girthed
  • reluctance to bend equally in both directions
  • reluctance to take both leads or maintain a given lead
  • decreased performance
  • refusing jumps
  • discomfort when being groomed or handled
  • other changes in behavior, attitude, or performance

    Veterinarians are accepting animal chiropractic more commonly as an adjunct therapy for animals. Even so, your veterinarian may not be familiar with chiropractic in animals, and may have concerns about its safety.  Rest assured--you and your veterinarian should feel confident that chiropractic is very safe when performed by a certified veterinarian.