About Veterinary Chiropractic

Veterinary Spinal Manipulative Therapy( VSMT) is a term used in many states that do not legally recognize the term Veterinary Chiropractic. VSMT is based upon using spinal manipulation to restore full and pain-free range of motion to joints. It includes all procedures where the hands are used to mobilize, adjust, stimulate or otherwise influence the spine and surrounding tissues. VSMT focuses on nerves, bones and muscles. The imbalances that happen with these three systems are what the adjustment is working to correct. Veterinary Spinal Manipulative Therapy can increase or restore performance in animals that participate in agility, fly ball, obedience training, hunting, herding, and day-to-day activities.

How does it work?

When an adjustment is being made, we are bringing motion to a “fixed” area of a joint, which can normalize blood flow to the spine and nerves, relieve compression of spinal nerve roots and irritation of the spinal cord, can release trapped tissues within the spinal joint, and can break down adhesions in the joint itself. This often has the benefit of alleviating pain and improving nerve health, increasing muscle tone and giving strength to joints. Additionally, VSMT is believed to improve the general health of pets through the support of the nervous system, which may lead to better function of abdominal and thoracic organs.

Is chiropractic safe? Does it hurt?

Spinal Manipulative Therapy is very safe. When done properly by a certified veterinarian, a patient has a higher probability of getting hit by lightning than being injured by an adjustment. Do not allow adjustments on your pet from an adjuster, veterinary or chiropractic, who has not completed an AVCA veterinary specific training program. For most musculoskeletal disorders of domestic animals, it is likely that chiropractic treatment has less risk than that associated with common medical and surgical treatments for these conditions. In human patients, chiropractic (like all medicine) does have documented risks. Statistically rare complications have been reported. The most common side effect is localized muscle soreness. If a practitioner is not familiar with veterinary anatomy, or if the animal is nervous and moves around or stiffens its muscles during the treatment, soft tissue or joint trauma may occur. It is important that your animal feels comfortable with the practitioner and is relaxed during the treatment. There are some gentle chiropractic techniques that do not use manual thrusts, and these may be more appropriate for a tense or uncooperative animal. A veterinary examination prior to chiropractic treatment is important to identify patients that might be harmed by chiropractic. For example, if your pet has a fracture or a tumor, chiropractic treatment in affected areas is contraindicated. Professionally trained doctors know how to assess pain and reduce the chances of painful adjustments without medication. If a manual adjustment is too painful for your animal, we will use a gentle instrument-assisted method or apply a different treatment such as acupuncture or laser.

An adjustment can be beneficial if the animal has any of the following symptoms:

  • Hip dysplasia
  • Arthritis
  • Acute or chronic injury
  • Recent orthopedic surgery
  • Difficulty / reluctance going up or down stairs
  • Limping
  • Disc disease
  • Neurological disease
  • Behavior problems
  • Hunched back
  • Pain in neck or back
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Unusual gait
  • And many, many more

What training do veterinary chiropractors have?

Chiropractors who work on animals must have specific training in both chiropractic theories and animal anatomy so that they are knowledgeable about the differences in biomechanics and neuromusculoskeletal function between humans and animals.  Depending on the level of education and training in each discipline, in addition to regulations determined by state, “Veterinarian Certified in Animal Chiropractic” is a DVM / VMD certified by the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association (AVCA); and “Veterinary Chiropractor” is both a Doctor of Chiropractic and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine.

What to expect

How many chiropractic treatments will be needed?

Depending on the nature of the condition (severity, how long it has been there etc.) some animals need only one or two chiropractic treatments, others need more. An experienced practitioner can give you an estimated course of treatment based on how similar animals have responded. Many owners find that routine maintenance helps their animals perform well; this may be as frequently as once a month or as infrequently as once per year.

How much will it cost?

Chiropractic costs are often lower than those of veterinary medical or surgical treatment for many (non-emergency) musculoskeletal conditions. Call us at 303.762.7946 for details and pricing specific to your pet’s needs.