How do you know your pet needs chiropractic care? : The Healthy Pet Blog

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How do you know your pet needs chiropractic care?

by Dr. Kimberly Hunt on 04/10/17

A dog (Bronx) was brought into my office with low back pain, worse when getting up from laying down.  The history of this 8 year old boxer mix included 2 major falls, several years back.  One fall was from a second story window. The other was from a moving vehicle.  After each incident, the dog recovered quickly, without medical intervention, and appeared to be fine.  Fast forward several years, and those same injuries are rearing their ugly heads as Bronx cries out in pain.

To both their benefit, and their detriment, animals are amazingly resilient.   Or at least they appear to be.  The truth is, animals hide their injuries through a process called "compensation".  This means they shift weight and walk or sit differently to avoid pain.  It's a built-in survival mechanism since showing pain or weakness can prove fatal in the wild.  Unfortunately, animals can compensate for only so long before their body breaks down.  Eventually, Bronx was no longer able to compensate and started showing symptoms including difficulty getting up from a seated or laying position, and severe pain with certain movements.  His x-rays showed spinal spondylosis at multiple levels (essentially severe arthritis of the spine) and narrowing of the intervertebral foramen which compressed and irritated his spinal nerves (ie: pinched nerves). 

Fortunately, with several chiropractic treatments over a couple months, plus home rehab stretches, Bronx made a full recovery.  He is now on wellness care with chiropractic visits 3 or 4 times per year to help him maintain his optimal health.  

Here's the unfortunate part of this story....Bronx had to become severely painful and physically compromised before his owners knew he needed help.  So how do we avoid this? 

1.  Have your pets checked by a certified animal chiropractor at least 2x per year when they are young, and up to 4x per year for older pets, and those pets doing a sport (exp:  agility dog, frisbee dog) or physical job (exp:  cattle dog, hunting dog).  The chiropractor can find, and fix, structural issues before they become debilitating.

2.  When you see an injury occur, even if your pet seems fine, schedule a chiropractic exam.

3.  If you see any of the following signs or symptoms, get your pet into the chiropractor immediately.  Remember, by the time you see symptoms, your pet has likely been compensating for awhile.

*Hesitation to do normal activities such as climbing, jumping up, jumping down, laying down, etc.

*Limping.  Limb weakness or inability to walk.

*Difficulty with certain movements such as turning head, lifting head, walking, trotting, running, climbing stairs, jumping, changing positions, getting up from a seated or lying position, slipping on slick floors, squatting, lifting leg, etc.

*Heavy and unusual panting, whining, or crying with certain movements or when being picked up.

*Change in behavior -  grumpy, no desire to play, doesn't want to cuddle, pulls away when you try to touch certain parts of the body.

*Signs of compensation - head held low and/or to one side, shifting weight from back legs to front legs, or from one side to the other, refusing to bear weight on a limb, laying only on one side of the body, arching back up, sitting crooked, etc. 

If you have specific questions about this topic, you are welcome to email them: Please allow up to 24 hours for a response.

Disclaimer:  This blog, and any information provided by Dr. Hunt via website or email correspondence, is not an attempt to diagnose or treat animals.  All information and/or comments are based solely on the experience, education, insight and opinion of Dr. Hunt.  You should always consult at licensed veterinarian on matters of animal health.