Chiropractic Care for Dogs

Chiropractic care helps dogs stay well adjusted.

By | Posted: Sat Jan 13 00:00:00 PST 2001

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Whether you're a dog or a person, your spinal cord, the nervous system's main signal-carrying conduit between the body and the brain, sits inside the bony protection of your vertebral column. Spinal nerves, which help control all body functions from muscle movement to heartbeat, enter and exit through holes in the vertebral column. If your vertebral column functions properly, so will your nervous system, chiropractic theory holds.

The word "chiropractic" comes from the Greek cheir ("hand") and praxis ("done by"). During an exam, veterinary chiropractors use palpations to pinpoint irregularities, called subluxations, in the relationship between two or more vertebrae that result in mechanical or neurological dysfunction. Interference with nerve-impulse transmission can cause nonsymptomatic changes that could develop into more serious problems such as exacerbation of hip dysplasia and urinary incontinence.

The noise that accompanied Jasper's adjustment is not in itself a sign of a successful adjustment. "The real proof is restored vertebral alignment and function and improvement in the signs the dog came in with," Dr. Caviness said, adding that, unlike Jasper's, not all adjustments have immediate impact.


Chiropractic adjustments, which correct subluxations, require a thorough knowledge of canine anatomy and a great deal of tactile sensitivity and skill. That's why Dr. Willoughhy emphasizes that dog owners should find an AVCA-certified veterinarian or chiropractor (see "How to Choose a Chiropractor.").

While Jasper's adjustment had an immediate effect, a dog's nervous system sometimes needs time to respond; therefore, chiropractors often recommend a series of rehabilitative adjustments followed by maintenance visits every three to six months.

Routine canine chiropractic visits typically cost between $35 and $50, with higher charges for the more time-consuming initial examination. Anaheim, Calif.-based Veterinary Pet Insurance, the nation's largest pet health insurer, covers chiropractic procedures as long as a licensed veterinarian performs them to address documented illness or injury (maintenance visits are not covered). "Our charter is with veterinarians, not chiropractors," said VPI medical director Elizabeth Hodgkins, DVM, explaining why it does not reimburse services rendered by a chiropractor.

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