Chiropractic care can be a very effective treatment for back pain. More than that, I think chiropractic is essential for any organism with a spine to achieve the highest level of health and performance. Let me explain.

The Spine

The spinal cord is the channel for information between the brain and the organs and tissues of the body. It is made up of millions of long nerve fibers which carry electrical messages, like a living telephone cable. This precious pathway for bodily communication is totally encased in bone.

The bony spine is a mechanical marvel. It supports the skeleton, acts as an attachment for many of the body’s muscles, protects the internal organs and protects the spinal cord. At the same time, it allows for incredible flexibility.

The spine owes its suppleness to the fact that it is made up of a series of small bones called vertebrae (pleural of vertebra). There are 27 vertebrae in all, from a pet’s head to his pelvis. These 27 bones are joined together by a series of over 150 joints. All of these joints must move in a coordinated fashion for proper locomotion of the entire body.

Furthermore, there are small openings on both sides of the spine, between the vertebrae where each bone joins to the next. Spinal nerves travel through these openings carrying information between the body and the spinal cord. Any malfunction of the 150 vertebral joints can constrict the openings and disturb the spinal nerves.


The word “subluxation” is used by chiropractors to denote an abnormally functioning spinal joint. A subluxation is not so much a bone that is out of place as it is a joint that is not moving properly. Even slight glitches in spinal joint motion can cause the surrounding tissue to swell and muscles to spasm. This can lead to pressure on the spinal nerves as they exit the spine. A 1986 University of Colorado study demonstrated that the amount of pressure equivalent to the weight of a dime on a spinal nerve was enough to cause it to malfunction in as little as 24 hours.

Subluxations have numerous causes. Trauma is the most obvious. This includes not only severe trauma but also more subtle disturbances such as slips, falls and missteps — basically living life. In fact, birth itself sometimes causes damage to the spine, starting the poor dog off on the wrong foot. Plus, some pets have been bred for traits, such as long backs and short legs, which predispose them to back problems. Finally, performance dogs are especially prone to back-jarring incidences. Jumping, racing and lead jerks can all knock the neck and back out of whack.

Spinal problems can manifest in many ways. Subluxations may cause neck or back pain and sensitivity to touch. Pacing or other gait abnormalities might be signs of a back issue as well as weakness or stumbling. Finally, stiffness, lameness and a decreased range of motion can all indicate the need for an adjustment.

The Adjustment

The job of the animal chiropractor is to locate and correct spinal misalignments. Several techniques exist for adjusting animals. Fortunately, none of them involve laying the dog down, belly up, on a chiropractic table and wrenching his neck from side to side. Most commonly the animal is adjusted while standing. The doctor gently presses on one vertebra at a time to locate any joints that are not moving appropriately. When a subluxation is located, a quick, accurate thrust is delivered to correct the problem.

Who You Gonna Call?

When taking your pet for a chiropractic treatment, be sure to seek a professional with proper training. Your chiropractor may do a great job on you, but because of anatomical differences between people and dogs, without special training a chiropractor is not the ideal candidate to treat your dog. America Veterinary Chiropractic Association (AVCA) certification assures education and skill in the specialized field of animal chiropractic. For a list of local, certified animal chiropractors log on to www.animalchiropractic.org.

Is your pet well adjusted?

6 replies
  1. gail
    gail says:

    Hi, Dr. Doug. I’ve been following you on Facebook ever since Kathy McStay told me about you and started sharing your posts. Your articles are very interesting and sometimes quite funny.

    I have a question. I have two cats about 2 years old. What would happen if I started to give them food like tuna, chicken, salmon, etc. and added a bit of taurine to it? Kathy assures me you are aware of all nutritional issues involving domestic pets. Thank you for any help you can give me.


    • Dr. Doug
      Dr. Doug says:

      Hi Gail,
      I’m glad you enjoy the blog. I like the idea of home made food but the diet has to be balanced. I major nutrient you would be missing if you followed your plan is calcium. A cat in the wild would eat the bones of his prey. He would also eat some of the internal organs which would provide other vitamins and nutrients. Your best bet is to follow a recipe that has been well formulated. I would suggest getting Dr. Karen Becker’s book http://amzn.to/1lLswfU
      Good Luck,
      Dr. Doug

  2. Pat Wagner
    Pat Wagner says:

    My cat Crook sees Dr Doug 2 times a month for her spinal adjustment. She may always not be happy when he does it but me, her mommy is. LOL I have a lot of faith in Dr. Doug.

  3. Pat Wagner
    Pat Wagner says:

    hm-m let me think about that one for a while. LOL Yep, she loves you as soon as you release her and she jumps back into her carrierr. Have a good weekend.

  4. gail
    gail says:

    Thanks for your response, Dr. Doug. If only I could get them to eat canned sardines–lots of calcium in them! I’m going to check out the book right now.

    Keep up your good work.


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