Chiropractic for Animals?!
This is the question/reaction I often get when I tell people that as well as being a (people) chiropractor that I am also a certified animal chiropractor. And that yes, animals can benefit from chiropractic care too. That’s ok, I get it. To some, it might seem a little frou-frou to get chiropractic for your pet. But is it really? What are the reasons that we as humans get chiropractic? Aren’t animals made similarly to us (albeit oriented differently) and aren’t they also exposed to the same types of injuries and wear and tear? Of course they are. Which leads me to the second most asked question:
How do I know if my pet needs chiropractic?
In general, animals are extremely stoic, so the signs of discomfort are subtle. A change from your pet’s usual behavior is generally a sign that something isn’t right. Perhaps he is refusing to go the same distance on walks, or not going up the stairs or jumping off the couch. Maybe he isn’t lifting his leg to pee anymore, or she isn’t squatting as low for bowel movements and/or struggling to have them. Or perhaps it’s even more subtle and she is just generally acting more isolated or seems sad, or even grumpy and aggressive.
Signs of pain can be as blatant as limping or yelping, but other signs can be more subtle like when your animal watches you very closely when you are touching them in certain areas. Skin twitching when touched can be another sign of tenderness, as well as constant licking of a certain area of their body. Lick granulomas or sores on the extremities may be signs that your dog has licked that area a lot.
An animal’s topline, or spine, should be more or less horizontal to the ground. A sagging topline or the opposite, a “roach back”, which is a hump about midway down the spine, are usually signs of pelvic and spine problems.
Look at the wear pattern on your animal’s nails: does one side look different from the other? If the top of the nail looks scuffed, your pet may be dragging that leg occasionally, indicating a possible pelvic or hip problem.
Look at your dog’s back legs: the rear pasterns (first long bone above the hind foot) should be perpendicular to the ground, with the foot on the ground slightly behind the hind end. Feet which are positioned more under the body can indicate a problem with the pelvis and lumbar spine. Another indicator is if you see them standing with a too-wide base or a too-narrow base (legs should be almost parallel).
In older dogs, sometimes we see size disproportion between the front and hind, with the hind looking skinny in comparison to the front. This shows a weight shift forward because of pain and dysfunction in the hind, creating more muscle in the front and atrophy in the back.
An animal’s gait should look smooth and effortless. A labored or “choppy” gait indicates stiffness and is often a great early indicator for chiropractic.
It is because animals are so good at masking their discomfort that I recommend people have their animals checked, even if all seems well. In my opinion, it’s generally a lot easier to treat an issue before it becomes problematic than to wait until it changes their function and behavior. The same as people ☺