Chiropractic therapy in dogs

Chiropractic therapy in dogs

Health & Safety

Chiropractic therapy is concerned with the treatment of the nervous, muscular and skeletal systems in the body. It is used in animals as well as humans for many different ailments and is trusted by countless dog owners to help with all manner of conditions. This natural therapy is sometimes called complimentary therapy because it is different to modern medicine, but complements it rather than being instead of it. It is one more tool to add to the options available for dog owners when making a decision about treatment. The advantage of natural therapy is that they are usually gentle and they can be combined with other treatments easily. Because the therapy is natural it also encourages the body to heal itself.

How will I know if my dog needs it?

Before any treatment is undertaken regardless of the type of therapy there should be a proper and full assessment of the animal. This chiropractic assessment (carried out by a qualified animal chiropractor) will usually tell you immediately whether problems are due to misalignment between the spine or limb bones.If this is found to be the case then with chiropractic therapy the problem can be corrected quickly and simply with manipulation by hand. The dog may need a few more visits to the practitioner to consolidate the treatment.Chiropractic assessment examines the whole body to find any sources of problems that the dog may be displaying. It can sometimes be a long way from the area that is being affected. During the assessment it may be found that misalignment is not causing significant problems, but contributing to an overall weakening of health or performance, so you may feel your dog is ‘under the weather’ rather than obviously lame (limping or not weight-bearing on one leg).Many practitioners will prefer to visit in the animal's own home and this will have several benefits including the animals living conditions – not to criticise, but to check if there are things such as:

  • Are there any large steps to climb up and down into the house?
  • Are there other animals to which the dog is being aggressive?
  • Is there a large gradient in the garden?

One other major benefit of having the practitioner visit the home is that the dog will be in their natural environment and will therefore be much more relaxed. By having a dog that is not stressed the practitioner will be able to make a more accurate diagnosis of the problems. Most dogs that visit the chiropractic centre or veterinary surgery display signs of anxiousness and because of this the muscles will tense making it more difficult on examination.A good practitioner will always watch your dog's movement to analyse their gait (the pattern of movement in the limbs of your animal). They will then palpate the bones with their fingers feeling for misalignments. Even if, as the owner, you do not know what has happened to cause the problem, the practitioner will be able to find any misalignments that are present and may be able to offer a theory on what has happened, taking into account the other conditions listed above. This helps the practitioner advise you on preventing problem from returning.At the end of the assessment the practitioner should explain what they have found and the plans for treatment, before any further chiropractic therapy takes place.

What can it treat?

Treatment for your dog from a chiropractic practitioner can help with all number of conditions. If your dog is displaying any of the following symptoms, then it can be worth talking to practitioner.

  • Your dog is developing unevenly.
  • They are unable to jump into the car (providing the jump is suitable!)
  • They are uncomfortable if stroked.
  • They are wobbly on their back legs.
  • They show aggressive behaviour towards other dogs.
  • They are unwilling to play, even though they might enjoy the game.
  • They are limping or lame.
  • Their sleep patterns have changed or they are over sleepy.
  • They cannot sleep or are restless.
  • They repeatedly colliding with furniture when running about.
  • They suddenly lose their agility.
  • They are seriously overweight.
  • They are failing to thrive.
  • They seem bored or depressed.
  • They have been diagnosed with hip dysplasia.

As you can see there are many different symptoms the dog might display that can be helped with chiropractic therapy. But what does the treatment actually consist of?


Important nerves pass through all of the joints in the dog's body. If any bones get moved out of alignment, even by a small amount, they can sometimes affect the nerves by pinching them. This effect means that messages from the brain are reduced to the muscles and vice versa.Because of this disruption in the message pattern there can be reduced movement, pain or discomfort and in some cases the condition might affect the function of internal organs. When these nerves are released things can go back to normal fairly rapidly if no permanent damage has been caused by these misalignments.Once the practitioner has found them they can adjust the bones with a rapid and accurately placed thrust. This thrust creates a reflex action which causes a change in ligament tension, thus allowing the body’s own healing processes to realign the bones and restore healthy alignment.When this treatment is carried out on young animals, they often get better immediately. Older dogs that may have age-related problems such as arthritis (which cannot be cured) can still undergo chiropractic therapy as it can make them more comfortable. It would also enable their immune system to work at its best and help fight off new illnesses.

How to choose an animal chiropractor

Look online or in the phone book for animal chiropractors. Qualified chiropractic professionals have the letters DC after their names. This stands for Doctor (or Diploma) of Chiropractic, it is also worth asking other dog owners for their experiences, however probably the best way to find an animal chiropractor is to ask your veterinary surgeon who they can recommend.

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