Chiropractic Therapy for Dogs

A comprehensive article explaining the uses of Chiropractic techniques in animals with advice on where to find a suitable therapist.

Chiropractic technique helps the nervous system function properly by ensuring the skeleton is aligned correctly. Chiropractors do this by using adjustments to help the bones align correctly.

The body is composed of a network of nerve fibres. This is protected by a framework of bones – the skeleton. The spine acts as a major supporting structure to the skeleton and is made of a series of irregular bones called vertebrae.  These vertebrae meet at facet joints which allow movement between adjacent vertebrae and thus the whole spine.  

The spinal cord is essentially a bundle of nerves that runs through the spine.  At intervals along the spine nerves exit the spinal cord and branch into various structures and organs.  This network of nerves allows impulses to travel from all over the body to the central nervous system (CNS). This gives the brain information about the position and state of various parts of the body.   Similarly it allows impulses to travel from the brain and the CNS to the peripheral nerves.

The nerve fibres and skeleton act together giving optimum health. The messages to and from the brain that travel along the nerve fibres need to be free flowing and if a bone is not in its right position this flow will be impeded. Falls, injuries and tissue damage can alter the normal alignment of the skeleton and surrounding structures.  This misalignment can transfer to the spine where the joints between two vertebrae can become slightly fixated.  This restricts the normal range of movement and can result in a reduced flexibility.

The close functional relationship between various parts of the skeleton means that an injury or reduced range of motion in one part of the skeleton can transfer and show signs in another part. For instance a limb injury can lead to problems of the back.

Chiropractors check misalignment that could put the body out of natural balance and work with the patient to make a plan to look at adjusting this over a period of time, which will alleviate pain, improve mobility and promote natural healing and health.

Chiropractic does not involve the use of drugs or surgery. It originated in 1895 in the USA and is one of the largest healthcare professions in the world.

Animals and Chiropractic

Animals which undergo chiropractic treatment must be referred from a veterinary surgeon. It is essential therefore that veterinary advice is sought so that a diagnosis of the primary problem can be established and a decision can be made as to whether chiropractic treatment is going to benefit the animal before referral.

Having being referred by a vet for a particular condition a chiropractor will make an assessment of the animal’s posture, gait and alignment.  This analysis will give the chiropractor information about abnormalities such as irregular head, neck or foot placements. Asymmetries will also be apparent such as unequal muscle size or tone or any other irregularities which result in abnormal posture.

As well as analysing the posture of the animal, a chiropractor will want to assess the range of movement of the spine and various joints of the animal.  They will also investigate the muscles around the spine for any swelling, spasm or irregularities.

Looking at the feet of the animal (claws, shoes or hooves) can identify areas of uneven wear which may alert the chiropractor to an abnormal walking gait. Neck, back, leg, and tail pain,

Conditions which may benefit from chiropractic treatment:

  • Muscle and nerve problems
  • Traumatic injuries, eg. From falls or accidents.
  • Sport and eventing injuries.
  • Post surgical care
  • Spinal and postural problems.
  • Joint health.
  • Possible use in help with chronic internal medicine disorders.

Chiropractic Treatment

Once the chiropractor has checked the whole body and established the nature of the problem they will commence treatment.

This consists of low-force, fast and precise adjustments to help realign the individual bones of the skeleton, allowing the nervous system to work as well as it possibly can. The key to the success of these adjustments is the speed, dexterity and accuracy, with which they are performed.

The treatment will not hurt the animal and most animals enjoy the treatment thoroughly.  Animals often become increasingly relaxed as the treatment progresses.  How an animal behaves after the treatment can vary between individuals.  Some animals feel better straight away and some may appear stiff or sore for a day or two after treatment.  Occasionally an animal may go off its food for a time.  Your chiropractor will be able advise on aftercare after a particular treatment.

Once treatment has been completed, a chiropractor will send a detailed report to your referring veterinary surgeon.  This should describe the treatment performed and may give recommendations as to prevention of problems reoccurring.

Chiropractic treatment requires a great deal of training and experience.  It is important that you check the qualifications of a chiropractor before treatment commences.  Not all chiropractors are qualified to treat animals.  In order to do this they must undergo additional training after they have qualified as chiropractors.

It is against the law for a chiropractor to treat an animal without the direction of a veterinary surgeon so you must get a referral from your vet.

The McTimoney chiropractic association offer a two year post-graduate diploma in animal manipulation. Only practitioners with this qualification are licensed to treat animals.

McTimoney chiropractic

The McTimoney method of chiropractic is named after its originator John McTimoney who developed this gentle, whole body, approach from existing chiropractic techniques.

McTimoney chiropractic has a vitalistic approach, which means that practitioners recognise the body’s natural capacity to heal itself. They check the whole body and where necessary perform low-force, fast, precise adjustments to help realign the individual bones of the skeleton, allowing the nervous system to work as well as it possibly can. The key to the success of these adjustments is the speed, dexterity, and accuracy with which they are performed.

McTimoney chiropractic has been found helpful for thousands of people for over 30 years and it is growing by nearly 150,000 new patients per year. Over 8000 people are treated with McTimoney chiropractic each day.

How McTimoney chiropractic works

When McTimoney chiropractic facilitates the realignment of the skeleton using low-force, fast, precise adjustments, it removes interference to nerve messages, allowing the body to rebalance. McTimoney chiropractic can help maintain your body, keeping you well and functioning in optimum health.

Chiropractors from the McTimoney Chiropractic Association are experienced in giving advice and can help provide simple solutions to health issues, which can be used in conjunction with other forms of care

Who and what it can help

McTimoney chiropractic is a popular approach used to alleviate problems in dogs, horses and other animals. No other chiropractors are trained and qualified to adjust animals. Practitioners must undergo two years of extra training to qualify to treat animals.

McTimoney chiropractic can promote a feeling of wellbeing and improve quality of life. It has also been found helpful not just for headaches, back, neck and joint pain, but also a wide range of ailments such as irritable bowel syndrome, menstrual pain, dental pain, and poor mobility or circulation.

The McTimoney Chiropractic Association

The McTimoney Chiropractic Association is the professional body for all chiropractors trained at the McTimoney Chiropractic College. The membership of the MCA has been growing by 12% a year for the last three years

The MCA currently has over 500 members in the UK and Ireland and is the second largest professional chiropractic association in the UK and in Europe. Around one third of UK chiropractors are members of the MCA.

How chiropractic in the UK is regulated

Chiropractors from the McTimoney Chiropractic Association undergo rigorous training and are fully qualified to give treatment and advice. All UK chiropractors are registered with the UK’s statutory regulatory body for chiropractors, the General Chiropractic Council, which is the equivalent of a doctor being registered under the General Medical Council.

How learning McTimoney chiropractic is accredited

To become a chiropractor from the McTimoney Chiropractic Association you need to attend a 5-year course, which is accredited by the General Chiropractic Council, at the McTimoney College of Chiropractic. Practitioners undergo two years of extra training (a post-graduate diploma in animal manipulation) to qualify to treat animals.

Like medics, chiropractors from the McTimoney Chiropractic Association are required to update their knowledge each year via a continuing professional development programme involving 30 hours study per year.


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