Pet Chiropractic Care & Back Problems: Home Treatment Tips
Chiropractic care…do you use it? In the past I’ve had back issues and got relief after visiting my chiropractor. Pet chiropractic care works as well in dogs and cats as in people, too. In fact, many people with performance dogs regularly schedule chiropractic treatments for their canine athletes..But how do I know if my dog needs a chiropractor? Why would a dog need a chiropractor, and how much is a chiropractic adjustment for a dog?
Cat chiropractic care may not happen as often. After all, felines practice their own form of yoga to stay limber. They’re also much lighter weight than many dogs, and perhaps that puts less strain on their bodies.
CAN CHIROPRACTIC CARE HELP PETS? Why would a dog need a chiropractor?
PETS AND CHIROPRACTIC CARE
I’ve blogged about holistic pet care before here. Chiropractic care for pets is a great option for keeping canine athletes in top performance form. Bodywork treatments can benefit your cats and dogs not only for recovery from injury but also prevention of problems by including massage, physical therapy and chiropractic adjustments. While massage focuses on the tissues surrounding the bones, manipulative therapies focus on the proper functioning of the joints and related muscles, including the spine. Some joint supplements also may help.
Holistic veterinarians say pet chiropractic adjustments can affect your pet’s emotions, as well as how the organs work, due to what he calls viscera-somatic, or “organ-to-muscle” reflex. I know that my back issues affect my emotions. And for our dogs and cats, the discomfort of any illness can make things worse. Music therapy can help ease the stress during these painful episodes.
Both science and holistic methods work hand-in-paw with these hands-on modalities, both in people and in pets. For example, when I hurt my back, my chiropractor required X-rays to be sure what was going on before attempting any adjustments, and followed that up with an MRI. While a human chiropractor can’t prescribe drugs (unless also an M.D.), a chiropractor with a veterinary degree can incorporate medications to help.
HANDS ON HELP: CHIROPRACTIC CARE & PHYSICAL THERAPY
Manipulative therapies carefully flex the affected joints to return them to proper alignment. They customize treatment plan to the individual pet. It may take only one “adjustment” or instead require several. The longer the problem has existed, the more treatments will be necessary. Chiropractic manipulations (especially of the spine) require a trained veterinary chiropractor because it can be very easy to injure your pet unless you know what you’re doing.
Physical therapy techniques, though, performed by you at home can help loosen up your canine athlete’s stiff legs, shoulders and necks. Movement increases joint mobility, and also stimulates production of synovial fluid, a joint fluid that nourishes and lubricates the joints to keep them healthy. Be careful not to over-extend a muscle or joint, though, and pay attention to your pet if he tells you to stop. Flinching or crying out during physical therapy means to stop and have a vet check out the pet for any problems.
How much is a chiropractic adjustment for a dog?
The cost of chiropractic care in dogs or cats varies a great deal, depending on the animal’s circumstance. Remember that a veterinary chiropractor requires specialized training, and not as many are available. One session may run from $50 to $200, and require a single session or a series of treatments.
HOME TREATMENTS FOR PETS: Can a dog’s spine be adjusted?
There are some easy to use physical therapy techniques you can do at home with your pet. This probably will work better with dogs than with cats—felines have their own way of performing kitty yoga and may not want your help! Leave the spinal manipulation to the expert chiropractor, though.
- Put your pet on his side.
- Take his front paw in one hand and his elbow with your other. For the back leg, you’ll hold the paw and hock instead.
- Move the leg in a circle, as if he’s running—forward, out, down and back.
- Stretch the leg with this gentle pressure only as much as the pup will tolerate and keep going for about five minutes (or until the put tells you to stop) before you switch to the next leg.
- You’ll need to have him rest on his other side to do the other two legs.
CHIROPRACTIC CARE & MOTION PALPATION
You can perform a chiropractic technique called motion palpation safely at home for your cats and dogs. Motion palpation helps flex and extend the joints of the back. It can have an additive effect, so that even tiny amounts done daily help pets feel better over the long term. It’s particularly helpful for creaky older dogs, but even athletic pups will enjoy and benefit from this gentle treatment that keeps them flexible and may help prevent injury.
- Ask your dog to stand or lie down in a comfy position.
- Feel for the individual vertebrae, the bumpy bones in the dog’s back. Pay particular attention to the dents or “valleys” between each bone.
- Start at your pet’s neck, right where his skull meets the spine. Position your thumb and index finger on each side of the first dent between the first vertebrae and his skull. Press down very gently with your fingers, and release.
- Then move to the next dip, and repeat the quick gentle pressure—each press shouldn’t take more than one second, so you can count, “One-one-thousand” and then move on.
- Continue to move downward from his furry head toward his wagging tail, pressing each “valley” in turn and then releasing.
Hands-on therapies can enormously benefit cats and dogs. It can also help you stay “in touch” with your furry family members. Have you or your pet ever suffered an injury and received help from a chiropractor? What helped your situation resolve the problem?
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Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!
My dog has been struggling to use her back legs lately, so thanks for sharing this. I like your point about having your pet lay on their side from stretches. I might try this before turning to professional help.
Everywhere we have lived, we have used a chiropractor for our dogs. I joke that the chiro adjusts my husband at the office and comes to our home to adjust the dogs. If you are having only one sided issues with your German Shepherd, it could be a pinched nerve or an adjustment problem. http://www.avcadoctors.com is a wonderful place to find chiros if you did not know. I was told many times to look for a DC because they have the years of experience rather than a DVM who is just taking some classes. I have found wonderful DCs and a few DVMS with our experience but we always go back to DCs. Now unfortunately there are some states where the DC has to work under the DVM (which in my opinion is wrong especially if the DVM has no clue and you know have to pay for both) so when we have had to move states I make sure we move to a state that has no restrictions like that. I want what is best for my pets and to not have restrictions put on me.
Thanks, Chris, that’s a good point.
Out late Scoonie had some serious issues that were helped with spinal care! That and physical therapy are likely why he kept trucking for so long! ❤️
Yes, physical therapy makes a big difference. I just got the okay go-ahead to also use my husband’s “inversion table” to see if that helps. Will report back later. (No self-respecting dog or cat would use it, though…other than as a perch, I suppose LOL!)
We are all huge chiro fans! Mom comes along and gets adjusted too. It can help out so much in so many situations with pets. It is not a cure all, but we spend the $40 for an adjustment anytime rather than go to the vet for pain pills and spending at least $100. You have to know when it is time to see the vet for help too, though.
I am truly sorry for all you’ve been through and hope you will find relief from the treatments. I have my standing twice-a-week appointments with my Chiro/sports medicine doctor for RA and Fibromyalgia, and I don’t think I’d be walking without them. I’ve heard wonderful things about folks who have their pets see one, too. I did some home massage techniques on my Gibson and it really helped him. I’m a huge believer in hands-on therapies. Thanks for a great and very informative post. I’m Pinning to my “Bark About” board to share!
I’m so sorry that you’re in so much pain, but I admire how you’re channeling your experience into such useful tips for pet owners, and staying busy with projects. I’m a big believer in creating over consuming.
I’m glad you finally got a diagnosis and will heal eventually. Great explanation on chiropractic for dogs. When my dog did agility she would occasionally go in for an adjustment from my vet. It made her feel and move a lot better. I didn’t know I could do these myself!
I’m sorry about your disk issues, but glad that the bulging is mild and not complicated. Hope you get back to normal soon!
My pets have never seen a chiropractor (nor have I), but a good friend who has Cardigans used to take her senior arthritic dogs to a vet chiropractor. She claimed it did them a lot of good. The exercises you described SOUND like they’d feel good to a dog or cat. Shoot, I think they sound good for ME!
I hope you feel better and the treatments help! Mr. N tweaked his back awhile ago and I did consider it but with a few days’ rest, he was up and running so I didn’t pursue it.
Chiro is AMAZING. So glad you wrote this. I use it for myself, but I have seen it work miracles in my pets. Pebble’s responds better to chiro than any dog I have had. If she is a little out of sorts, seems uncomfortable, I take her and and immediately following the adjustment she’s back to normal. Dogs that frequently chew their feet may benefit too as they could be experiencing tingling due to collar corrections or pulling on leash. It’s really amazing stuff!
I actually don’t know if I’d dare to try chiropractic treatment for disc disease. However, we do use it regularly for Cookie for other reasons – misalignments due to compensation for issues in her pelvis.
My corgi Eve did PT and Chiro for hip issues. I thought both did wonders for her. She soon will be doing swim therapy as well.
Obviously this is a topic I’m very interested in. I work with veterinarians who provide spinal manipulation or acupuncture and I supplement with massage. Combined there can be amazing results! I would never adjust the vertebrae on my own though because of the risk of injury.
Sorry about your back issues I can relate. My chiropractor has helped a lot through the years, but lately I’ve also started doing yoga. With dogs with both leg and back issues this is great information, can’t wait to give it a try. Thanks
Thanks, Lorie. Sorry you’ve had back issues, too. Seems that affects many of us.
I believe that chiropractic care for pets will become more common as more and more owners realize that a hands-on approach to care is better for their pets than simply giving them a pill. Your article will help advance this movement toward holistic health for our dogs and cats.
Oh Lori, thank you! Hope so . . . going over to the TV station in an hour or so, and will talk about the topic there, too. *s*
I’m glad your MRI didn’t have worse results. My husband has 2 ruptured disks and a pinched nerve causing pretty severe sciatica that he’s been getting treated for about a year and a half now. I know people who swear by chiropractors, but they freak me out in all honesty. The sound of bones popping gives me the willies. I am a big advocate for exercise, massage, and physical therapy though. We did lots of stretching and strengthening exercises with Roxie after her “elbow” surgery. I hope you and Magical-Dawg both get to feeling better soon!
I understand about the “bone popping” noises, but so far, I’ve not had that at all. Walking has been one of the best things helping me. I also know water therapy is very helpful for pets — and for people. I want to look into finding a place I can do something in water.
First – let me say how sorry I am for your recent pain. I have cervical spinal stenosis and have at times had excruciating pain in my neck and shoulders. Physical therapy and chiropractic care has helped tremendously.
I had a vet who would adjust Praline when she’d come in for a visit. I don’t know of any vets in my area who do adjustments.
Oh Paula, so sorry you’ve had these issues, too! For me (so far!) this back issue isn’t painful, but I have had problems in the past that were excruciating in my lower back. So it’s likely this has been building up for a long time. I think with our dogs (and cats), we could be more pro-active, too. I once interviewed a woman about her competition champion “Frisbee” dog, and she had him visit the veterinary chiropractor both before and after events. She didn’t wait for injury–just got him treatments to help prevent problems.