Maybe you think that animals, unlike humans, use their bodies in a natural way and shouldn’t need chiropractic support. After all, they aren’t sitting at a desk all day, or playing one-sided games like golf! And cats are far too slinky to ever get stiff. But the truth is, chiropractic adjustments to the spine and limb joints can be an amazing boon for achy athletes, older arthritic pets, animals that have tripped or been dropped, and puppies that need good alignment in order to reach their healthy potential. In addition, recent work by Canadian veterinarian Laura Taylor has suggested that any dog who has been neutered or spayed is out of ideal alignment for health and comfort until the post-surgical adhesions are resolved with myofascial and osteopathic work. There are so many situations in which chiropractic and osteopathy can be helpful for animals.
Puppies & Kittens
Let’s go by age. Most puppies and kittens are incredibly flexible and can be resilient to lots of pouncing and bouncing and odd sleeping positions. But they are also vulnerable to getting their joints pulled out of alignment if they get stuck in an overstuffed chair or porch railing or child’s hand. Similarly, the fall of a puppy or kitten from human hands or a table or sofa can affect skull bone alignment or vertebral alignment. When this happens, those joints may not be able to develop normally and it is possible to see early arthritis that might have been prevented. Vertebrae out of alignment create abnormal stresses across the intervertebral disc and increase the risk of disc disease as an animal ages. Skull bones out of alignment create stress through the dura mater which covers the brain and spinal cord and can increase signs of anxiety or vague unwillingness to move. Getting chiropractic or osteopathic therapy after a puppy or kitten first joins the family and again after any known traumas can make a huge difference in the long term healthy function of that pet.
Spay & Neuter
Most of our pets these days are spayed or neutered between two to twelve months of age. Dr. Laura Taylor started noticing recurrent chiropractic patterns that prevented ideal athletic function – the kind of function that would affect our weekend hiking buddies as well as competitive agility and dock-diving dogs. In addition, the imbalance created in the pelvis can trigger a destabilizing pattern in the knee, which may make animals more vulnerable to cruciate injuries. When the spay and neuter adhesions are released, which can take 1-5 appointments, animals show noticeable improvements in how they move. They regain the natural connection and strength from their hind ends and move with more grace and power. As a bonus, the treatments are often very relaxing!
Emotional & Physical Stresses
Some of our pets come to us as rescues who have dealt with emotional and physical stresses that we often will never fully know. Overwhelming emotional stresses are sometimes stored in the spine, in the same way that we recognize emotional releases sometimes coming from our muscles after a particularly deep massage. Chiropractic and osteopathic care for these animals within the first 6-12 months after rescue can make a big difference in releasing such stored emotions. Such care can also resolve movement dysfunction in the spine caused by physical traumas, and ideally help the animals avoid the development of early joint pain.
Adult Dogs & Cats
Dogs and cats in their prime are often great seekers of adventure, whether it’s playing hard in a field full of holes, chasing deer through bramble and sticks, competing in the sport arena, or finding the highest and slippery places to hide and play. Often these adventures are sources of great joy and sport, but sometimes they result in a hard fall, a collision, or a slip that wrenches the body. Sometimes the animals seem to recover fairly quickly with a good full body shake, sometimes they are sore or tentative for a few days but recover, and sometimes they have difficulty recovering. In all these situations, but particularly the latter two, chiropractic evaluation often can find and resolve abnormal tension or compression patterns that can cause pain and/or loss of function. The dogs and cats that seem to recover after a few days without treatment are often the animals who are compensating for a dysfunction that is significant enough to be setting them up for further accidents and injury down the road. This is a situation where preventive care can make a big difference in protecting the back and limbs from more significant injury down the road, which is really a much more powerful place to act than once an accident has caused significant structural damage.
Older Dogs & Cats
As our pets adventure their way into old age, they can develop arthritis from gradual wear and tear and from old injuries, even after corrective surgeries. A common response to arthritis in a limb is to redistribute forces to alternate limbs using the back and spine. This commonly causes spinal joint compressions which over time will further compromise an animal’s ability to move well. Other pets may have a lifetime of adventures causing progressive dysfunction and gradual onset of pain in their backs. Still others may have developed intervertebral disc disease in the neck or back. In all these situations, chiropractic care can restore spinal function and comfort, thereby helping these older animals enjoy their golden years. It is important to use appropriate gentle techniques in patients with disc disease, but when such approaches are employed they can extremely helpful in recovery.
Chiropractic and osteopathy can be powerful tools helping our pets find and maintain their comfort and their contagious joy in motion that is such a powerful pleasure for us to be around.
Dr. Amy Matthews has a dual degree in veterinary medicine and immunology. She has chosen to focus her attention on holistic veterinary medicine. Her training includes chiropractic, osteopathy, acupuncture, Chinese and Western herbal medicine, and theta energy work. She can be found at: All Creatures Holistic Health, 3D Turkey Hill Rd, East Granby, CT 06026; 860-888-7796; and firstname.lastname@example.org.