Chiropractic care for your pets

Jun 19, 2012 at 11:00 a.m. ET

Many people are unfamiliar with chiropractic care as a form of heath care for humans, so it's no surprise that most people don't consider the option for their pets.

Dog at chiropractor

However chiropractic care can be just as beneficial, if not more beneficial, than other forms of treatment for certain conditions. You may even find that it will boost your dog's health and wellness even if there is nothing wrong.

Chiropractic care is a form of health care that focuses on the nervous system whether the patient is a human or an animal. Dysfunction in the nervous system can lead to a series of illnesses and conditions and a chiropractor aims to correct the dysfunction and restore proper nerve flow to all areas of the body. Dr. Erin O'Connor, an animal chiropractor and co-owner of Vitality Chiropractic Center, agreed to share some information with us about what chiropractic care is and how it can help your pet.

SheKnows: What is the major difference between chiropractic care and other forms of care?

Dr. O'Connor: Chiropractic works to eliminate the root cause of the problem and not just simply treat the symptoms. When a joint is subluxated (misaligned), it loses motion and position. A chiropractic adjustment corrects the subluxation and restores the proper functioning of the nervous system.

SheKnows: What are the most common conditions you see?

Dr. O'Connor: Common conditions I see are arthritis, seizures, ear infections, allergies, hot spots, injuries resulting from falls or trauma, neurological conditions, sudden back leg paralysis, abnormal gait, change in behavior signifying pain, and conditions that have been through every test and imaging that are coming out normal, when the dog or cat most definitely is not.

SheKnows: Can a pet come see you if there is nothing wrong?

Dr. O'Connor: I provide "wellness care" for pets that are healthy to prevent disease from occurring in the first place. Getting a healthy pet's spine checked just a few times a year can greatly reduce conditions that are viewed as "normal old age" such as slowing down, not going up and down stairs, and arthritis, which are definitely not normal.

SheKnows: What should pet owners expect when they make an appointment with an animal chiropractor?

Dr. O'Connor: The first visit, the patient's health history is discussed. Any imaging and treatment records from their veterinarian or specialist may also be looked at, especially if they involve the pet's current condition. Neurological tests may be performed, stance and gait analysis, and motion and static palpation. After this, the pet is adjusted.

SheKnows: Do animals mind being adjusted?

Dr. O'Connor: Most animals enjoy being adjusted, sometimes the first visit they are a bit nervous, but usually realize they feel better after and are excited to come back.

SheKnows: Can any chiropractor or vet adjust an animal?

Dr. O'Connor: No. Some people try and get a "human chiropractor" to adjust their pets. This is outside of their scope of practice. An animal's spine and biomechanics are very different from a human's. And while any veterinarian can "manipulate" a spine without any prior education, it is advised that a vet has education in animal chiropractic for the best results as well. By going through the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association, you are assured the services of a skilled, dedicated professional who will work to provide the very safest care.

SheKnows: Do patients need a referral from their vet in order to see a chiropractor?

Dr. O'Connor: This depends on the state that you are located in. There are different laws in every state. If you contact an animal chiropractor, they will let you know if you need one. Also note, animal chiropractic does not replace veterinary medicine, but it is great for pets and works very well alongside it. All patients must be up to date with their annual exams at their vet.

SheKnows: What's the strangest animal you've ever adjusted?

Dr. O'Connor: I mostly adjust dogs and next are cats, but I volunteer care at Fox Valley Wildlife Center where I have adjusted rabbits, a variety of birds, raccoons, opossums, squirrels, chipmunks and even a woodchuck!

SheKnows: Can chiropractic care help dogs who compete in shows or agility competitions?

Dr. O'Connor: Yes! While these activities are great, they do put some extra stress on the body. I get a lot of dogs who show coming into my clinic. Agility is a big one, just because of the differences people see in their dog's performance after chiropractic care. Also, in conformation, a neat story is one of our patients is the oldest sheltie and AKC dog to earn a Grand Champion (as of this date) at 13 years old. His owner attributes chiropractic care as helping him get there!

SheKnows: Do you have any favorite success stories?

Dr. O'Connor: Some people call our success stories "miracles," but really all animal chiropractors are doing is removing interference in the nervous system, which controls every organ, tissue and cell in the entire body, and allowing the body to heal itself! So, the body's very own healing potential is what causes these "miracles."

I had a 19-year-old dog come in that had about 8 to 12 seizures a day go down to about one every month. I've also had another dog who I had to adjust while seizing. He had been through anything and everything to help him. His options left were either chiropractic or euthanasia. He was brought to me as his last hope and had an appointment scheduled with his vet to be put down if it didn't work. After his first adjustment, he stopped seizing, started walking around, wagging his tail, eating, drinking, going potty again and had very few episodes in the couple of weeks after. He is still doing great and hasn't had a single episode in 1-1/2 years.

Follow Dr. O'Connor on Facebook for more success stories and videos.

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