Chiropractic care for dogs? Chicago-area veterinarian adjusts canine spines
An estimated 30 million Americans per year seek the care of a chiropractor to help alleviate back pain and other aches.
But what about your dog. Can he feel back pain?
Of course, and a growing number of veterinarians now specialize in chiropractic care to treat dogs with spine, joint and nervous system problems.
Suburban Chicago veterinarian Dr. Laurie McCauley has been adjusting canine spines for about 20 years at TOPS Veterinary Rehab, her highly rated specialty vet practice in Grayslake, Illinois.
“Our (chiropractic) patients are mainly dogs that a have a job to do, like show dogs or agility dogs,” McCauley says. “But just about any dog can benefit from this kind of treatment, especially older ones.”
History of animal chiropractic care
The practice of chiropractic procedures on animals dates back to the 1940s, when it started with adjustments made to large farm animals and small pets, according to the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association.
It wasn’t until about 40 years later, however, that a formal organization was founded to promote the practice. Though that original group would later fold, today the AVCA provides membership and accreditation to thousands of veterinarians throughout the United States.
Angie’s List member Mary Engstrom of Schaumburg takes her dogs for regular treatment with McCauley. She says she got the idea after her older dog appeared sore one day after coming in from outside.
“Our general vet prescribed a course of steroid treatment as well as an anti-inflammatory,” Engstrom says. “When she finished the refills on all the medicine, she still wasn’t as lively as she used to be. I had friends who took their dogs to chiropractors; and it certainly helps me, so it just seemed like the next logical step.”
Dogs in need of chiropractic care often show signs of lethargy, loss of motion and changes in muscle tone surrounding the vertebrae, McCauley says. Adjustments are made in an effort to restore neurologic programming, and the benefits can often be surprising.
“(I’ve seen) incredible differences," Engstrom says. "Our general vet basically sentenced my older female to life with an achy back.
"The pills did the best they could, but she just couldn’t progress beyond a certain point. Not too long after she started chiro care, she was able to jump into the car under her own power!”
Cost for care
Because dogs can’t communicate what specifically may be hurting, determining how often they should be treated depends largely on results. McCauley says some dogs may need treatment every 10 to 14 days until results are seen. Other dogs she sees quarterly for adjustments.
Engstrom started out with treatments every other week, but now she takes her dogs for adjustments about every three months.
Just like chiropractic care for humans, the price for adjustments on dogs doesn’t come cheap. McCauley’s TOPS facility charges on average of $75 per treatment. For Engstrom, those payments are worth every penny.
“Rehabilitation care brought my dogs far beyond what pills and bed rest were able to do,” she says.