Noreen Ziegler, DVM, CNC
This information is designed to answer some of the questions you may have
concerning chiropractic care for animals.  Our office offers chiropractic care
for the animal patient.  Animal chiropractic is a relatively new profession, and
it has great potential for dealing with many animal health problems.

Most people associate chiropractic care only with back problems.  This is a
misconception.  Chiropractic deals with the nervous system that is housed
inside the spinal column.  The spinal cord carries all the nerves that go to
every organ in the body.  These nerves exit the spinal column through areas
between vertebras, which are the individual spinal bones.  Chiropractic
maintains that adequate nerve supply is vital to the proper functioning of the
entire body.  When the vertebra bones are misaligned, even very slightly,
they affect the nerves and the chiropractic adjustment is aimed at correction
the subluxation and restoring the proper functioning of the nervous system.

Chiropractic thus works to eliminate the cause of the problem and not just
simply treat the symptoms.  Many animal benefits from chiropractic care.

A subluxation is caused by trauma such as slips, falls, automobile accidents,
and blows.  Sometimes these accidents are major, like getting hit by a car; or
sometimes they are minor, like slipping on ice, or simply a misstep.  The
birthing process can lead to subluxations if the spine is subjected to abnormal
forces a delivery time.  As animals age, stresses naturally accumulate in their

This office sees many diverse problems responding to chiropractic care:  
lameness, abnormal gait, neck and back pain, epilepsy, older animals with
stiffness and pain, bed wetting, in dogs infertility, and many other diseases.  
One of the most exciting things that we happen in almost of the animals we
treat is an improvement in the animal's attitude.  Owners tell us all the time
about how good the animal feels after an adjustment.

Chiropractic care takes time since we are allowing the body to heal itself after
the proper nerve functioning has been restored.  Animals tend to recover very
quickly; however, chiropractic care may not entirely solve the problem for
older patients.  The speed of recovery depends on these factors:

  • The length of time that the problem has been present.  The more time
    that has elapsed since the onset means that the recovery may take
    longer.  It takes time to get sick and it takes time to get well.

  • Age and physical condition.  Older animals are slower to heal.  It is not
    possible to return a 14 year-old dog to puppy hood, but the quality of
    this life may greatly increase with chiropractic care.

  • Damage.  How much damage has been done?  Sometimes there is
    simply no repair for severely damaged issues.  For example, if the
    spinal cord is damaged by a ruptured disc, there may be slow and
    minimal healing with any treatment.

  • Cooperation.  The speed of recovery often depends on how well the
    owner will cooperate with the animal chiropractor who is treating this
    pet.  If the animal is removed from care too soon, the best possible
    results may not be achieved.

What is Chiropractic care for horses?
Chiropractic care is not a substitute for traditional veterinary medicine and
surgery.  It is a complementary method of therapy.  Chiropractic focuses on
the proper function of the spinal column.  The spine of a horse is a complex
structure that is composed of bone, ligament, muscle, and nerves.  The bones
of the spinal column are called vertebra.  The spinal cord passes through the
center of each vertebra.  Nerves branch off the spinal cord and exit between
two vertebra to travel to all the muscles and organs of the body.  There are
approximately 200 joints in the spinal column of the horse.  Numerous
muscles and ligaments are attached to the vertebra enabling the spinal
column to flex and bend.

Chiropractors use the term subluxation to describe a specific problem of the
spinal column.  A subluxation is defined as a vertebra that is “stuck” or unable
to move correctly.  When movement between two vertebra is restricted, the
horse will have decreased flexibility of the spine.  Stiffness, resistance, pain,
and lack of ability results.  Mis-aligned vertebra causes problems in nerves by
interfering with nerve transmissions.  Subluxation may be pictured as pinching
off or altering that flow of information.  Depending on the area and amount of
nerve interference, problems may then develop in a specific area of the body.

What could cause subluxation in the spine of a horse?
Being born (squeezing through the birth canal); trauma/injuries; confirmation
traits; stall confinement (especially on an uneven floor); age; tack/equipment
(poor saddle fit); rider ability; trailers (loading/unloading); improper shoeing/

How might a horse act if he/she has pain from a subluxation?
Abnormal posture; discomfort when saddling; discomfort when riding or
working (wringing tail, pinning ears); uncooperative attitude; head shy; head
tilt or shaking; decreased lateral flexion; lameness; short, choppy gait; difficult
gait transitions; difficulty picking up canter lead.  Also, internal organs
suffering from abnormal nerve function may result in chronic colic, poor
digestion and infertility.

The American Veterinary Chiropractic Association trains and certifies
chiropractors and veterinarians in the art and science of animal adjusting.  
Performance horses often have many problems and many compensations.  
Some problems are permanent and some diseases are progressive despite
the best health care.  Have realistic expectations, healing takes time.

Chiropractic care is directed toward preventing disease in the body, therefore,
it is important to make sure that the spine is kept in optimum condition.

Please contact Noreen Ziegler, DVM, for more information or to schedule an appointment
to have your dog, cat or horse evaluated.