These days, you or someone you know probably gets chiropractic care for anything from random aches and pains to orthopedic disorders like scoliosis. What is a chiropractor? For humans, a chiropractor is a person who specializes in complementary medicine who treats misaligned joints with physical manipulations. Chiropractors “adjust” people by cracking and aligning joints to relieve compression, swelling and pain. Many dogs suffer from bone issues that can cause pain, but would a chiropractor cracking, popping and massaging resolve a dog’s pain issues? Let’s talk about the growing use of chiropractic care for canine health and wellness.

What is a Dog Chiropractor?

According to the College for Animal Chiropractic Care, “Animal Chiropractic is a field of animal health care that focuses on the preservation and health of the neuro-musculo-skeletal system. Why? Nerves control everything that happens in your animals. Anything adversely affecting the nervous system will have detrimental effects that will resonate throughout the entire body.” As a result of dysfunctional movement, your dog may suffer from tension, stiffness and pain when moving. Now, families know pet care isn’t limited to food and shelter. Dog chiropractors offer new ways to treat pain without surgery or medication. By using tried and true manipulations on canines, dog chiropractors are able to examine and treat dogs in a way that often goes unnoticed by traditional veterinarians. Animal chiropractors are not a substitute for your veterinarian. They work WITH your vet to treat the pet patient. Dog chiropractors are trained and certified. Here’s what you should look for in a reputable dog chiropractor:
  • Doctor of Chiropractic or veterinarian
  • Completed one of three certifications in a recognized animal chiropractic school
  • Certified by the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association (AVCA) or the International Veterinary Chiropractic Associations (IVCA).

Can Dog Chiropractic Care Heal Your Dog?

Are you seeing unusual behaviors in your dog? It’s your responsibility to notice these things and seek help to treat them. Although not all behaviors are a cause for concern, here’s a list of signs and symptoms in dogs that may indicate they are good candidates for chiropractic care:
  • Difficulty getting up from laying down
  • Licking or chewing paws constantly
  • Sitting differently
  • Pain when touched or pet
  • Fear of going up stairs or jumping on furniture
  • Changes to eating and potty habits
  • Laying on one side only
  • Lame limb or altered gait
  • Changes in mood and temperament

How Dogs are Adjusted

Adjusting a dog is similar to a person being adjusted. When the dog is experiencing restricted motion, the doctor applies “a high force low amplitude thrust specific to the anatomy of the joint thereby restoring normal movement.” A normal session takes between 20 and 30 minutes to complete. Follow up visits are shorter, at around 15 to 20 minutes per session.

How Much Does a Dog Chiropractor Cost?

Costs of dog chiropractic care can range quite widely. It all depends on the age of the dog, their behavior, how long they need to get care, etc. For the most part, you can expect to spend between $50 and $200 per session. This is about the same cost as traditional physical therapy.

Keep an Eye Out for Charlatans

We absolutely suggest you make sure your dog chiropractor is certified. Some practitioners claim to be something they are not. If you take your dog in to get adjusted and notice any of these things happening, find another doctor:
  • Won’t let you watch
  • Use of hammers or mallets
  • An instrument that “clicks” up and down the animal’s back without examining the actual joints of the animal
  • Doing seemingly harmful or painful manipulations

Canine Massage vs. Dog Chiropractor

Canine massage and chiropractic care work in conjunction together. Massage does not involve adjustment but it does involve manipulation. The American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation says “Dog owners seek out massage and chiropractic treatments for their pets for the same reasons they may utilize them for their own self-care: most frequently, the alleviation of physical stress, strain, impaired mobility, and discomfort. Many patients who request veterinary massage and/or chiropractic have experienced their positive effects for themselves and wish to see if it will benefit their pets.” We suggest finding a dog chiropractor that can do both adjustments and massage therapy. Together, it can do wonders to heal your dog and ease pain.

The Bottom Line

If you want your dog to experience freedom of movement and the best quality of life, chiropractic care may be right for them. And dog chiropractors aren’t just for old dogs. You can prevent future bone health issues by adjusting dogs with poor symmetry and alignment when they are young. It’s a very powerful tool when used properly. Questions and concerns about your dog’s health should always be validated by your vet. Be sure to speak to them before beginning any chiropractic treatment for your dog.