Chiropractic Care & Your Pets

A recent news story from Fairbanks, Alaska reports how a local veterinarian is using chiropractic adjustments to help sled dogs with injuries. 

The story focuses on lead sled dog Mayo, who at just two years old, was experiencing difficulty rotating his head to the right. Veterinarian Jeanne Olson was able to gently take the dog’s head between her hands, which seemed to have a soothing effect on him, then began massaging the muscles of the neck and further down the spine. The resulting chiropractic adjustment was tolerated by Mayo, who excitedly ran to his owner’s side when it was over.

Olson, teaches a canine sports medicine class to dog sledders in Fairbanks. According to her, dogs are perceptive to the benefits of chiropractic care and after a positive experience in finding pain relief just once, are much more relaxed on subsequent treatments.

Other animals don’t take to it so easily, however. For example, horses. Olson says that horses are very difficult to give a first time chiropractic treatment to, because they don’t trust strangers easily and most likely have had painful experiences with vets in the past, like injections or examinations. Horses also tend to have a stubborn nature when pressed to perform an action they don’t want to do. But when Olson comes to see a horse a second time, it typically places its chin on her shoulder as if to ask for more chiropractic treatment.

The major difficulty in treating animals with chiropractic care is diagnosing the problem, because animals are unable to verbalize their pain articulately. Olson asks her human clients to watch their pets closely for unusual movements, as this often indicates a problem with their musculoskeletal system. Sometimes a dog will begin running with a crooked gait, and this is an immediate red flag that something is wrong.

Olson studied veterinary medicine in the 1980’s and later discovered a mentor in Sharon Willoughby-Blake of Iowa, who is considered to be a pioneer of chiropractic care for animals. Another vet using chiropractic care on animals is Tamara Rose, who studied spinal manipulation therapy in Wisconsin, specifically for working with horses. After moving to Fairbanks, she has used this training on sled dogs too. 

As with human healthcare, there is a division in veterinary medicine between mainstream practitioners and those who embrace alternative therapies like acupuncture and chiropractic therapy. But in Olson’s opinion, the gap isn’t as severe in veterinarian medicine as it is with human medical science. As alternative health practices gain wider mainstream acceptance, even more changes can be seen in veterinary care. 

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Used under Creative Commons Licensing courtesy of philip meier