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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Expenses were not a concern with Spencer, a Labrador Retriever whose hip dysplasia had been progressing silently for years. His owner, Carmen Temme of Plymouth, Mass., didn't notice the condition until Spencer started showing signs of pain and lameness at age 8. X-rays revealed almost complete degeneration of his femoral heads - the bony balls that should fit snugly into the hip-joint sockets.

While Temme's veterinarian gave Spencer a steroid injection, prescribed a nonsteroidal arthritis drug and suggested she discuss surgical options with a veterinary orthopedist, her chiropractor referred her to Debra Tranberg, DC, of Scituate, Mass., en route to her AVCA certification.

After inquiring about the dog's recent medical history and observing his movements, Dr. Tranberg performed a chiropractic exam, carefully avoiding the area near Spencer's painful hips. She found several subluxations in Spencer's neck and mid-back that probably arose from the dog's attempts to compensate for his compromised hindquarters, she said. After eight weekly treatments, Spencer regained mobility, got up from lying down with less effort and needed much less medication. "Most important, the spark in his eye returned," Temme said. "Chiropractic care has helped keep him mobile and comfortable."


Knowing chiropractic can't cure Spencer's hip dysplasia, Temme still might opt for hip-replacement surgery. Spencer's rehabilitation will be quicker if he receives chiropractic adjustments to correct subluxations that arise after surgery, Dr. Tranberg said.

Veterinarians encourage owners to watch for changes in their dog's behavior as well as physical movements, advice Joanne Cotter of Groton, Mass., willne ver forget. She noticed her 5-year-old Samoyed, Scandal, started crabbing, or drifting sideways while trotting, and took the dog to Dr. Caviness. Cotter figured Scandal had hurt herself while carousing with Quasar, her other Samoyed.

Dr. Caviness has shown Cotter how to do simple flexibility-enhancing manipulations in between maintenance visits, and he has the distinction of being the only veterinarian Quasar has ever liked - a fact he attributes to the relaxing massage Quasar gets as part of his chiropractic care.

While Scandal and Quasar get "out of adjustment" simply by living the life of family dogs, many canine beneficiaries of chiropractic are athletes. Several of Dr. Caviness's dog patients compete in agility events, and Dr. Willoughby, who lives in Alaska, often adjusts sled dogs. Dogs competing in obedience and conformation also can benefit from chiropractic care. "The obedience dog that doesn't sit straight may have a subluxation," Dr. Willoughby said. "Even gaiting problems in the show ring are often corrected with chiropractic."

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