Features August 2002 Issue

Determining Whether a Dog Would Benefit from Chiropractic Care

Veterinary chiropractors use these procedures to determine whether your dog would benefit from chiropractic – but you can use them, too.

The following is a guide that I use to help clients evaluate their own dog’s biomechanical status. Using this guide should provide you with the necessary information to help you decide whether or not chiropractic adjustments might be indicated for your dog.

I chiropractically evaluate and treat every one of my patients whom I can comfortably get my hands on. I do this for several reasons. First, because I feel it’s important to have a free-flow of healing energetics that is possible only when the body’s “scaffolding” is free of kinks. Second, because when I adjust an animal, I personally receive the added benefits of being body-to-body, heart-to-heart with that animal. This is one of the prime aspects of holistic veterinary medicine – a personally healing aspect – that was not available to me in a western-style practice.

I like to have as much background information about the dog as I can get . . . and then I put it all in a “safe-keeping” place somewhere in the back of my mind. I do not want an overload of information to confuse my hands’ ability to feel and sense what is really going on in my patient.

However, it is important for me to learn what my clients expect from our treatments: what they want their dogs to be able to do after the treatments; and discuss how soon (how many treatments) we feel is appropriate before results should be seen. I also want to discuss what I’ve seen clinically in similar cases so we have (I hope) a common ground to work from.

As I speak with the dog’s guardian, I try to hunker down and make myself available for the dog to come to me of his own accord. In a few minutes after our introductions we will become pretty intimate, and I want him to have some trust before I begin.

I usually do a quick gait analysis to see if I can detect obvious lameness. If, and only if, the dog’s “job” depends on her athletic skills, I make a concerted effort to determine the site of lameness. Otherwise, it is enough to know the animal is lame; my chiropractic treatment will depend on what I find with my fingers anyway.

Chiropractic adjustments are much easier (on me and the patient) when the patient is relaxed. As soon as I can get my hands on, I use basic Tellington Touch massage techniques for calming. (A dose of the calming herbs kava or valerian, or the flower essence called Rescue Remedy, given about 30 - 60 minutes before the veterinary visit, can also be very helpful.

I also do a quick pass over the dog to feel differences in energetics. In my Kansas practice I try to do this surreptitiously; when I’m working in California, I make a big show of it! Energetic differences – areas where I feel or sense increased or decreased energy – almost always indicate an area where chiropractic adjustments will be needed.

As we get more familiar with each other, I do more hands-on investigation of the dog. As I conduct an anatomic palpation, I’m checking to see whether all the bones are where they should be and whether they are connected properly; is the hip bone connected to the back bone, connected to the neck bone, connected to the head bone? More importantly, are the adjacent bones connected to each other as they should be?

I also check the range of motion of the joints. Each joint has its own normal range of motion. Spinal vertebrae, for example, move around three axes – lateral flexion (side-to-side, hula motion), flexion/extension (up and down motion), and rotation. Joints of the extremities have their own specific normal range of motion, depending on the joint involved. For evaluation, I will check each spinal vertebra for its range of motion, then those that are stuck, I’ll adjust it so they are able to return to a normally functional range of motion. Joints of the extremities are usually simply moved through their normal range of motion.

There are more than 100 different chiropractic methods, each with its own name, specific technique or focal area of the body that it addresses, and its own advantages and disadvantages. I’ve adapted several of these methods into my own practice, and I suppose I use some stuff that has no name or list of practitioner-adherents.

I find that some of the light-touch methods – “Network Chiropractic” and “Logan Basic” – are helpful, especially for hypersensitive animals and/or those who have chronic disease. At the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association’s course for veterinarians and chiropractors, the major techniques we learned were combined adaptations of the “Gonstead” and “Diversified” methods.

Although many practitioners have found it helpful, I do not use an activator (a mechanical devise that activates a spring-loaded plunger) to assist with adjustments. I don’t use an activator because I feel it takes away from my ability to feel what is going on with the area I am adjusting. Also, I don’t like the idea of anything mechanical being used in a process that I feel requires an awareness of the energetics involved. Plus, an activator is incredibly powerful; used improperly, it can do real damage to joints. And finally, I think it is too easy to half-learn the technique, which lets a lot of half-skilled people use the method in inappropriate ways.

The way I was taught, a chiropractic adjustment consists of the following. First, identify the specific site of the subluxation and identify the direction the joint is “stuck or “loose.” The contact point (the bony part of the anatomy where the adjustment will be performed) is located, and the adjuster creates a firm contact with the underlying bone, and the patient’s body is stabilized. Then, the actual adjustment is performed by moving the hand in a short-lever, high-velocity, controlled thrust, aimed in the direction that is specific for the way that the joint needs to be returned to normal function.

Since the spinal column is functionally one long string of bones, one subluxation is almost always associated with other dysfunctional areas in other parts of the body; this is referred to as “associated subluxations.” One treatment does not fix them all, so the entire back (and the hips and extremities) needs to be evaluated.

After the treatment, I’ll recheck the areas that were abnormal, check them for pain and motion. Then, we’ll watch the dog walk to check for any improvement.

We’ll also discuss home care. I like to let the dog’s guardian know what she can do at home to help the chiropractic (and other) treatments achieve their expected results. Exercises, stretches, nutrition, herbs, and supplements are all a part of a continuing home healthcare program.

Before the clients leave, I like to review our treatment objectives, time frames involved, and expected results, so we are still on the same page as the dog walks out the door.

And finally, even as the dog walks out the door, I watch to see what kind of immediate results we have had: good (I hope) or bad (ugh).


Also With This Article
Click here to view "What You Can Do."
Click here to view "Problems That May Respond to Chiropractic Care."
Click here to view "Visual, Physical, and Radiographic Examinations."
Click here to view "Gait Analysis."
Click here to view "Information to Further Assist Your Holistic Veterinarian/Chiropractor."

-by Dr. Randy Kidd

Dr. Randy Kidd has a DVM degree from Ohio State University and a Ph.D. in Pathology/Clinical Pathology from Kansas State University. He is a past president of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association, and author of "Dr. Kidd’s Guide to Herbal Dog Care" and "Dr. Kidd’s Guide to Herbal Cat Care." See "Resources" for contact information for the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association or to purchase Dr. Kidd's books.

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