by Dr. Margaret L. Meier (Radle) DVM, CVSMT, CAVCA, CIVCA
“Veterinrary spinal manipulative therapy (VSMT)? Is that like chiropractic for animals? How come I didn’t know this was available?” These are questions I face every day in my veterinary practice. As readers of Second Opinion, we are all familiar with chiropractic care for ourselves and our beloved family members. However, what many of us don’t realize is that this care is also available for our beloved animal companions.
Animal chiropractic traces its history back to Dr. Sharon Willoughby and the late 1980s. Dr. Willoughby held dual degrees as a doctor of veterinary medicine (DVM) and a doctor of chiropractic (DC). Dr. Willoughby began to teach fellow licensed veterinarians and chiropractors the science and skills necessary to treat animals with veterinary chiropractic. As the popularity of veterinary chiropractic grew, unfortunately so did the number of people who were taking advantage of the unsuspecting public. These individuals claimed to be veterinary “adjustors” who had little, if any, qualified training. As a result, a certification process was developed by the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association (AVCA), focusing in North America, as well as the International Veterinary Chiropractic Association (IVCA).
The American Veterinary Chiropractic Association was organized by a collaboration of licensed veterinarians and chiropractors “to ensure the public and the animal chiropractic profession that those candidates who pass written comprehensive and clinical examinations are suitable for certification in the field of animal chiropractic.” The AVCA recognizes four post-graduate programs in animal chiropractic, and these schools are listed on their website. The IVCA “endeavors to establish consistently high standards of veterinary chiropractic through approved educational courses, certification examinations, and the membership code of conduct and standard of proficiency.” Having your animal evaluated by one of these certified professionals is the best way to ensure that your beloved companion receives the best animal chiropractic care possible.
During your animal’s chiropractic examination, the doctor will evaluate many things, including the way your pet walks (gait analysis), the overall health of the nervous system, and the motion and static palpation of the joints of the spine and limbs. During this process, areas of reduced mobility in the spinal column will be diagnosed as a vertebral subluxation complex (VSC) and, if deemed appropriate, an adjustment to this area will be performed. Adjustments must be done to individual joints one at a time. According to the AVCA, “a chiropractic adjustment is defined as a short lever, high velocity controlled thrust by hand or instrument that is directed at specific articulations to correct vertebral subluxations.” These subluxation complexes result in secondary neurologic involvement that decreases the body’s ability to function at optimum levels, resulting in dis-ease.
Some indications for animal chiropractic care include lameness; changes in behavior or the moods of your animal; pain in the neck, back, or tail; injuries from slips, falls, and accidents; and chronic health problems that do not resolve as expected. In my experience as a veterinarian certified by the AVCA, I have treated a variety of animals with varying conditions, including dogs, cats, horses, and cows. I have even treated a guinea pig and a racing pigeon. If you are uncertain if your animal will benefit from veterinary spinal manipulative therapy, I would recommend contacting a certified doctor near you. To help you locate these professionals, the AVCA and IVCA websites include a listing of veterinarians and chiropractors that have been awarded certification by their respective programs.
VSMT, or animal chiropractic, is a manual therapy used for a wide variety of health and performance problems. It is important to remember that this treatment modality is not a replacement for traditional veterinary medicine and surgery. Rather, when used in conjunction with traditional diagnostic tests such as the physical exam, radiographs, and blood work, the best treatment options for the patient can be determined. In addition to conventional and animal chiropractic care; other complementary modalities may be considered, including physical therapy, acupuncture, and massage therapy.
Dr. Margaret L. Meier (Radle) is a 1996 graduate of the University of Wisconsin, School of Veterinary Medicine. In November 2005, she received her certification in veterinary spinal manipulative therapy from Healing Oasis Wellness Center; and in December 2007, she completed the requirements necessary for certification by the AVCA, of which she is currently a member. Dr. Meier (Radle) became a certified member of the IVCA in December 2011. She currently practices at Animal Wellness Center of Buffalo Valley. Visit www.animalwellnesscenterofbuffalovalley.vetstreet.com. She can be reached at (715) 926-3836 during regular business hours.
1. “Veterinary Chiropractic,” Michelle J. Rivera and Pedro Luis Rivera, DVM, Veterinary Technician, May 2000, pp. 301–304.
2. American Veterinary Chiropractic Association website. www.animalchiropractic.org
3. International Veterinary Chiropractic Association website. www.ivca.de/eng/index.php?ueberuns