Veterinary Spinal Manipulation Therapy

November 12, 2019



Lisa Pinn McFaddin, DVM, CVMST, CCOAC, CVA, CVFT

What is Veterinary Spinal Manipulation Therapy?

Veterinary Spinal Manipulation Therapy is also known as Veterinary Chiropractic. The term chiropractic comes from the Greek words “cheir” which means ‘hand’ and “praxis” which means ‘practice’ or ‘done by’, and refers to the practice of manipulating the spine to treat disease. Chiropractors’ base their theories of disease on the connections between various body structures and the nervous system via the spinal column, and on the role of the spine in biomechanics and movement. Therapy is directed at the spine in order to modify the progression of disease.

What is the history of chiropractic medicine in veterinary medicine?

Spinal manipulation has been practiced for centuries in many cultures, including the early Chinese and Greeks. In its modern form, chiropractic theory and practice have developed within the last century. Veterinary chiropractic is a young profession that is undergoing rapid growth and evolution.

On which species of animals is chiropractic practiced regularly?

Chiropractic manipulation is frequently performed on horses, dogs, and cats, but can theoretically be performed on any vertebrate species.

Who practices veterinary chiropractic therapy?

In the state of Virginia only specially trained and certified Veterinarians can practice spinal manipulation on animals. The training is separate from veterinary school. Dr. McFaddin received a post-doctorate degree in Veterinary Spinal Manipulation Therapy (CVSMT) through The Healing Oasis in Wisconsin. Dr. McFaddin is also a fellow in the College of Animal Chiropractors (CCOAC).

What conditions are most often treated with spinal manipulation?

Conditions with a neurologic or biomechanical (musculoskeletal) origin are amenable to chiropractic manipulation. These conditions include degenerative joint diseases such as hip dysplasia and spondylosis; cervical instability; acute neck pain; intervertebral disk disease; autonomic nervous system problems such as urinary and fecal incontinence; musculoskeletal weakness or pain that resists conventional diagnosis and treatment; and chronic back and neck pain.

How can my pet benefit from spinal manipulation?

Chiropractic is one of the few modalities in veterinary medicine where results are frequently immediate, and are often seen within minutes of treatment. In general, improvements are defined as an improved gait and an apparent reduction in pain. In orthopedic conditions such as fractures or ligament tears, chiropractic care will not replace the need for surgery, but may be useful in correcting secondary problems caused by compensation or overcompensation to the injury.

Animals used for athletic performance or other working purposes are ideal candidates for chiropractic treatment. By regularly assessing and maintaining maximum flexibility in these animals, injuries may be avoided. Animal athletes include horses used for racing, dressage or pleasure riding, and dogs used in racing, agility training or field trials.

How successful is spinal manipulation?

Veterinarians practicing spinal manipulation see the patient as a functional whole, rather than as a sum of its parts. Ensuring normal range of motion of the vertebrae helps optimize function of lymphatics, blood vessels and nerves, which communicate between the spine and various body structures, allowing the body to function optimally to the point that further interventions may not be required. Applied correctly, chiropractic adjustments can alleviate or eliminate the need for long-term drug treatments. The success of the treatment depends upon the degree and chronicity of the problem.

How safe is chiropractic?

When performed by an experienced, trained veterinary professional, chiropractic manipulation is generally considered to be safe. If adjustments are performed with the appropriate force, the patient will require a series of treatments, which will gradually result in restoration of health. However, if the force of an adjustment is excessive or the adjustment is applied at an incorrect angle, time, or location, serious damage to the patient could occur. Some animals may be a little stiff for 24 hours after the treatment. If this is noted encourage gentle movement periodically.

What is the cost of chiropractic?

Comprehensive chiropractic treatment involves obtaining a thorough history and physical examination, followed by patient assessment and formulation of a treatment plan. It rarely involves a single visit, and costs will vary according to the specific condition being treated and the response of the patient. The fees associated with chiropractic treatment are set by the individual practitioner, and will often reflect the experience and skill of the chiropractor. Chiropractic is usually very affordable, and is certainly a cost effective way of managing and resolving pain and weakness.

Can chiropractic be combined with other types of veterinary medicine?

Chiropractic therapy is often combined with other forms of traditional and integrative veterinary medicine. There appears to be a particularly strong synergy between acupuncture and chiropractic. When multiple types of treatments are used, it may be difficult to determine the efficacy of a chiropractic treatment, unless the treatments are performed at different times. Certified veterinary chiropractors have the knowledge and skill to understand the interactions between different forms of treatment and to interpret the patient’s response to therapy.

This client information is based on material written by Steve Marsden, DVM ND MSOM LAc DiplCH AHG, Shawn Messonnier, DVM and Cheryl Yuill, DVM, MSc, CVH.

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