Chiropractic for Pets

by Dr. Alyse Hall, CVSMT, Owner of Happy Tails Chiropractic

Chiropractic has been the #1 form of natural healthcare for the last 100 years or so. Last year alone, 33 million people sought chiropractic care and reported a 97 percent satisfaction rate. At Stucky Chiropractic, we recently celebrated our 57th year taking care of the Chippewa Valley, the young, the elderly, and every age in between. What you may not know is that humans are not the only ones who benefit from chiropractic care. Your family pets do too! Animal chiropractic has only been accepted in the traditional veterinary community, though, for the last fifteen years or so. Animal chiropractic helps to reduce subluxations (misalignments within the spine and extremities) to help improve the function of your pet’s immune and nervous systems.

Animal chiropractic is not meant to replace traditional veterinary care. Animal chiropractic offers non-surgical, drug-free options for helping bone, disc, and soft-tissue disorders related to improper spinal biomechanical movement for animals of all sizes. It is not an alternative treatment, but rather an integrative method that when used in conjunction with good traditional veterinary care, may provide many more years of healthy living for your pet.

Symptoms that can be present in your pet companion when a subluxation exists can range from mild to severe. Generally, if there is pain or discomfort, you’ll notice a change in your pet’s behavior, gait pattern, or performance. For instance, a dog in pain or discomfort will often pant more than normal. Your pet may also pace or yelp, sit or stand abnormally and/or in an awkward position, and he/she might even show signs of incoordination. These are just some subtle signs you may see in your pet that point to dysfunctions within the nervous system. Subluxations can cause other problems as well, including stiffness, lameness, difficulty going up and down stairs, difficulty jumping onto the couch or bed, difficulty chewing or swallowing, muscle atrophy, changes in gait like “sidewinding,” stumbling, weakness, urinary incontinence, constipation, etc.

When you take your pet for a chiropractic adjustment, the first thing the doctor will do is get a history on your pet, including information about their lifestyle and overall health status. The chiropractor will also want to see any prior x-rays take on your pet and will want to consult with your primary veterinarian. A chiropractic exam includes a neurological assessment, an evaluation of stance and gait, motion, and static palpation. Each abnormality in spinal alignment and extremities noted during the exam will be corrected through spinal manipulations, which are also known as adjustments. The American Veterinary Chiropractic Association defines an adjustment as “a short lever, high velocity controlled thrust by a hand or instrument that is directed at specific articulations to correct vertebral subluxations.”

Most animals respond well to adjustments and are generally instinctively aware of the problem in their body before the owner even notices. Chiropractic is not limited to an injured or sick pet. Healthy and athletic animals are ideal candidates for chiropractic care as well. Chiropractic may enhance the quality of your pet’s (large or small) life, ensuring many more active and healthy years for them and your family.

Timing, Speed, and Balance

By Judy Soborowicz, Active Health Chiropractic

Timing is everything, especially in sports. The brain controls all movement and coordination of body timing, such as responding to the sudden change in walking and properly maintaining balance when stepping in a hole, and for explosive movements required for competitive sports. The brain is responsible for coordination, communicating with specialized nerve cells found in every joint and ligament of the body, which allows for the coordinated response of muscles. These specialized nerve cells are activated when the slightest movement occurs within the joint, making the brain able to instantaneously respond with muscle contraction and repositioning of joint position for stabilization in motion.

Functional MRI has shown that the brains of participants post-ACL repair during bending and extending the knee respond differently, as compared to controls. Studies suggest that due to loss of the specialized sensory receptors within the knee, the brain shifts function to rely more on the visual centers of the brain. Even with exercise and movement, the brain displays changes in response. Aside from the input of the inner ear, communication between joint sensory receptors is the primarily way we balance and respond in movement. Relying on visual motor response may be why performance can be so negatively affected.

Take for example, an ankle sprain, or when any joint and surrounding supportive tissue is injured. The motion of that joint is altered because of problems within the joint. During the healing time, the communication between the specialized nerve cells and brain are altered. Post-injury, the body may be able to regain use, but small issues within the joint may persist, decreasing the fast timing and responsiveness accompanying previously healthy movement. This means you may be able to perform, but may notice changes in your speed of responsiveness, balance, or persistent re-injury that negatively affects you overall.

A simple balance test, done in your home, can be a great way to determine how efficient your brain is at gathering information from the specialized nerve cells stimulated by joint position and inner ear. With a partner, in a safe place, attempt to balance on one foot. If you are able to balance with your eyes open, attempt the same with eyes closed. If you are unable to balance without using your eyes, you may be relying on your visual motor response. This may translate to slower performance as an athlete, chronic injuries, or the loss of ability to walk confidently in the dark or on irregular ground.

Optimizing the output from the sensory receptors throughout joints depends on stimulation, which occurs with healthy movement. Chiropractic adjustments address problem movement issues within the joints. Specific adjustments to restore healthy movement translate to big changes in performance. Nerve cells have a “use it or lose it” requirement. Increasing information relayed between the joint receptors and brain begins a process regaining response and performance. Restoring function to joint movement and sensory communication to the brain reduces the likelihood of injuries/re- injuries, and restores brain function to original design. The healthier the movement in the joint, the more robust the signaling for better timing, response, and stabilization.

Judy Soborowicz, DC CCN obtained her chiropractic degree at Palmer College of Chiropractic. Dr Judy enjoys practicing chiropractic and nutrition at Active Health in Eau Claire, alongside her husband Dr John.