Chiropractic care for Pets?

You must be joking!

Actually it’s no joke.

By Dr. Elizabeth Easterling

Dr E-07989

Animal chiropractic is becoming a very popular modality to improve mobility, performance and help with the overall health of your pet.

So first of all what is chiropractic?  It is the science and art that deals with the structures and function of the spine and most importantly its relationship to the nervous system.

The nervous system controls all functions of the body and if interference occurs our ( or our pets ) bodies cannot function or heal appropriately.

The goal of chiropractic is about detecting and correcting these spine-nerve-muscle ( neuro-muscular-skeletal) problems to restore health and performance.

For those who have little or no faith in chiropractic, you might change your mind when you see a dog with its head held low, tail down and yelping only to leave with its head held high, tail wagging and easily jumping into the car after spending 15 minutes with the chiropractor.  One such dog actually let out a loud yelp when the exact point in his neck that was causing all the pain was adjusted followed by an amazing turnaround in his discomfort.  Placebo effect?? I don’t think so!!

Well, let’s look at the nervous system.

It’s divided into the Central Nervous System, which is the Brain and  Spinal Cord ,and the Peripheral nervous system which control all the other nerves supplying muscles , organs, and carries information from the body to the brain.

So if a nerve supplying a muscle is affected by vertebrae jammed up or out of alignment, this can cause weakness, spasm, or in coordination.

If a nerve to an organ is affected, say bowel or bladder…well use your imagination.

If a sensory nerve is affected it may cause numbness, pins and needles, loss of sensation or reflexes and of course PAIN.

So if these problems can be caused by vertebral bones or joints having lost their normal movement or alignment; what causes this?

Well in short STRESS!!Dr E-08017

But there are actually three types of stress that affect our bodies.

The most common one is physical stress, examples are trauma, overuse, injuries, lack of exercise, confinement, and degeneration or arthritis.

However, there are also mental/emotional/stressors that can cause spinal/nervous system disorders such as fear, abuse, neglect etc.   These can cause tension and immune suppressors in the body that can lead to disease or postural strains.

Then there is also chemical stressors such as poor diet, environmental factors and medications that can cause changes in the nervous system and spinal function.

So what are some other the things to look for when it comes to spinal problems in dogs?

Pain may be manifested by:




Unwillingness to jump or do stairs

Arched or rotated back

Sensitivity to touch

Changes in behaviour such as biting

Other signs to look out for include:


Loss of bladder/bowel control

In coordination

Dragging feet or scraping toes

Abnormal posture when standing or sitting

Partial paralysis or weakness ( usually hind end)


Muscle atrophy ( loss of muscle mass )

Some simple tricks  to tell if your dog may be having spinal problems are these:

1) See if you can lift your dogs chin to meet the ceiling 180 degrees

2) Turn his/her head all the way to each side, if not there may be a neck problem going on

3) See if you can bring the hind legs straight out behind your dog.  They should easily be able to stretch straight back.

4) See if you can bring your dogs front legs straight in front, again they should be able to do this with ease.

5) Press on their spines and see if you can create a “spring feeling through each vertebrae.  Pain, yelping, muscle twitching or biting may all be a sign of spinal problems.

As Chiropractors, we use “adjustments” to the spine to correct/restore normal joint functions and alignments and reduce stress on nerves.

How do dogs react to Chiropractic treatments?Dr E-07987

Most dogs seem to like being adjusted.  Many times the animal will adjust their position to “help: the chiropractor “find” the problem.  One of the most exciting and satisfying things we see happens in almost all animals we treat is their improvement in behaviour.   Owners often tell us their pet looks and appears “younger” and have resumed their previous zest for life!

For me as a veterinary chiropractor the most satisfying moments in my practice have been witnessing the many animals ( and people of course ) going from not being able to run, play and being in pain to becoming their old selves again, and especially seeing the dogs with paralysed hind legs run again.

One of the highlights of my practice was seeing a dachshund with a paralyzed hind end given a death sentence from his vet and his owner in tears watching him fall about in pain, after a few treatments I saw this dog running around  and getting his life back.  The smile on the owners face reminds me what this is really about.

If we forget what joy is , all we have to do is look at our pets!