Your pet leads an active life, running, jumping, fetching, and wrestling with their buddies. These exertions can cause misalignments, which lead to significant muscle and nerve pain. Chiropractic adjustments can correct these areas, reducing pain, decreasing inflammation, and improving biomechanics. Our team at Marina Village Veterinary and Integrative Care wants to educate you on chiropractic care, to help you determine if your pet can benefit from this therapy.

Veterinary chiropractic basics

Chiropractic refers to manipulating the spine to treat disease or injury by recognizing and correcting vertebral subluxation complexes (VSC), which are functional vertebral misalignments. Five components make up the VSC, including:

  • Spinal kinesiopathology — Physical injury and emotional stress can cause the vertebral bones to become misaligned, or unable to move normally. When this occurs, normal movements, such as turning and bending, are restricted.
  • Neuropathophysiology — Abnormal spinal cord movement or misalignment can irritate the nerve tissue, resulting in pain or numbness in a pet’s neck, back, and limbs.
  • Myopathology — The muscles that support the spinal column can atrophy or spasm in response to these changes, and scar tissue can develop inside the muscles, making them unable to properly support the spine.
  • Histopathology — These changes also affect the surrounding soft tissues, resulting in torn ligaments, and discs that bulge, herniate, or degenerate.
  • Pathophysiology — In an effort to better stabilize the area, the pet’s body deposits calcium, resulting in bone spurs, and abnormal bone growth. This process occurs in three stages:
    • Stage 1 — The pet’s range of motion is reduced, and their spinal curve is lost.
    • Stage 2 — Bone spur formation occurs, and the pet’s disc begins to narrow.
    • Stage 3 — The pet’s joint becomes immobile, and bone fusion eventually occurs.

Signs indicating a pet has a vertebral subluxation

The pain caused by a vertebral subluxation can be expressed in the pet’s posture or behavior. Signs include:

  • Postural abnormalities — Pets may sit in an altered position, known as puppy sitting. They also may be willing to lie on one side only, or hold their body oddly when standing.
  • Mobility problems — Pets may be reluctant to move, unable to climb stairs or jump on surfaces, and unable to meet their previous performance level.
  • Pain — Pets may vocalize when they perform certain movements, or they are lifted. They may also exhibit a painful facial grimace.
  • Lameness — Pets may have an irregular gait that cannot be attributed to a particular limb. They may also be stiff after sleeping. 
  • Infections — Pets may have recurrent ear or anal gland infections.
  • Incontinence — Pets may lose control over urinating and defecating.

Conditions that can be treated by veterinary chiropractic care

Conditions that have a neurological or biomechanical origin are most amenable to chiropractic adjustment. Conditions include:

  • Arthritis — Chiropractic adjustments relieve pressure on irritated nerves, and restore proper motion between bones and joints.
  • Degenerative disc disease — Problems addressed by chiropractic adjustment in pets affected by degenerative disc disease include degeneration in the spinal joints that disturbs spinal movement, degenerative discs putting pressure on spinal nerves, and spinal stenosis causing back and leg pain.
  • Joint pathologies — Conditions such as hip dysplasia and cranial cruciate ligament rupture can be helped by chiropractic adjustments.
  • Muscle abnormalities — Muscle spasms or weakness, and degenerative muscle disorders, can be treated with specific adjustments.
  • Nerve problems — Certain neuropathies benefit from chiropractic care.
  • Separation anxiety — Spinal manipulation helps relieve stress in some pets, and makes them feel more relaxed.
  • Incontinence — When subluxations affect the sacral region, incontinence can occur, and adjusting these misalignments can improve the situation.
  • Lick granulomas — The mechanism is unknown, but studies have shown that pets affected by lick granulomas can benefit from chiropractic manipulation.

A typical veterinary chiropractic exam

When your pet arrives for their first veterinary chiropractic exam, a thorough physical exam will be performed. Your pet’s spinal and peripheral limb mobility will be assessed by watching them move. X-rays may be needed to further evaluate your pet’s anatomy. After the initial assessment, subluxations will be sought by palpating your pet’s neck, spine, hip, and limbs in a static and mobile state. These misaligned areas will be adjusted using a low-amplitude, high-velocity thrust in a precise manner. You may hear a popping or clicking sound when the adjustment is made, which is perfectly normal. Your pet may experience some discomfort during the procedure, but most pets are amenable to the techniques, and seem to feel better after therapy.

Pets are not sedated during chiropractic adjustment, because the drugs decrease their ability to resist the manipulation, which could cause an overcorrection, and result in injury. Most pets require more than one visit to successfully address their required adjustments, and certain chronic conditions, such as arthritis, benefit from ongoing visits to manage the pain, inflammation, and mobility issues. Your pet may be sleepy after a session, and have mild soreness for one to two days, which is not uncommon.

Chiropractic care is an excellent option for numerous conditions, to decrease an affected pet’s pain, reduce inflammation, and increase mobility. If you would like to see if your pet is a good candidate for this therapy, contact our team at Marina Village Veterinary and Integrative Care, and schedule an appointment.