Paws for Thought: Sitting Down with an Animal Chiropractor

International Dog Day took place on Saturday 26 August and we sat down with animal chiropractor, Bronwen Henley, to find out more about the discipline, its many complexities and how animal chiropractic care can differ from human chiropractic care.

To find out more about Bronwen’s own story and how she ventured into the world of animal chiropractic, check out her previous guest article, where she discusses her career path and love for animals.

To start with, what exactly is Veterinary chiropractic?

“Animal or Veterinary chiropractic is a hands-on treatment that helps to improve joint function and movement to restore normal motion. Animal chiropractors can be either qualified chiropractors who treat people, or Veterinarians, who then go on to complete a postgraduate diploma in Veterinary chiropractic.

From my experience, animal chiropractors are passionate about using hands-on, non-invasive treatment to manage musculoskeletal issues. In fact, many vets have been surprised at the effectiveness of these treatments and have actually gone on to qualify to use these techniques as part of their veterinary practice.”

Why would an animal need chiropractic care?

“Animal chiropractors most commonly treat our much-loved pets, like dogs and horses. I started working with both, but have chosen to work with just dogs moving forward, as my passion for helping them was my original reason for training as an animal chiropractor. For those wondering if their furry friend needs a chiropractor, my first piece of advice is that you know your pets better than anyone else. As their owner, you are the best person to observe when something changes in their movement or behaviour. If they have pain, you may notice one or more of these symptoms:

  • Your pet is grumpier than usual
  • Has a reduced appetite
  • Struggles to jump, climb stairs or get up from sitting or lying
  • Limps or walks differently
  • Sits differently or lies on one side
  • Shows aggression when touched in certain places
  • Licks or chews their paws

If you notice any of these changes, I advise consulting your vet to ensure there’s no underlying cause. If your vet decides that the symptoms are due to a musculoskeletal issue, then that’s when the chiropractor comes in!”

What type of animals can benefit from chiropractic care?

“All animals can benefit from chiropractic care. In my career I have treated horses, guinea pigs, dogs and even a snake!”

How do I choose an Animal or Veterinary Chiropractor?

“There are multiple ways to check whether a practitioner is qualified to treat your animals as a chiropractor. The first is that the practitioner must previously have trained as a human chiropractor and be registered with the General Chiropractic Council, or as a qualified Veterinarian.

From there, they are then able to complete a post-graduate course in Veterinary Chiropractic. There are currently three schools in the UK that run these courses; these are The IAVC, McTimoney and Options for Animals.

Another way to assess the chiropractor is by checking out their website, as they will most likely list their qualifications and specialisms. Another tip is to look for Google reviews and testimonials on their website, along with any relevant social media posts.”

What types of conditions can be treated with chiropractic care?

“Chiropractic treatment is applied directly to your pet’s joints and muscles, so any injuries to these will improve with treatment. As animal chiropractic is still a very young profession, there is not enough research to make claims about specific injuries. However, there is plenty of real-life evidence showing improvements in dogs with musculoskeletal problems, where owners wanted to avoid drugs and surgery. Additionally, chiropractic can be helpful alongside these treatments to speed up recovery and support post-surgical care.”

What can treatment look like?

“When joints aren’t moving normally this can cause abnormal motion, pain and dysfunction for your pet. After taking a full history of your pet’s health and current activity or behaviour changes, the chiropractor uses hands-on assessment to find areas of discomfort and tenderness. These are then released using gentle specific manipulations to restore normal movement and relieve your pets of any pain with a care plan. This could also include support from your vet and, if necessary, physiotherapy or hydrotherapy to help your pet return to their normal selves.”

What can I expect when taking my dog to treatment?

“Before the first session, your chiropractor will ask you to receive permission from your dog’s vet if necessary. However, if your dog is booked in for sports performance treatment or maintenance care this won’t be the case.

During the first session, you will also be asked about your dog’s health history and any current injuries. After this, the chiropractor will look at your dog moving around and feel all along the spine and limbs to find out where any problems are. Once the issues have been identified, they will discuss a treatment plan and explain their findings to you.

During the treatment, restricted joints will be treated with a quick manipulation to get them moving better and rechecked. You may be given some exercises to do with your dog at home and some advice on any recommended changes in activity.

To get the best out of the treatment and ensure a speedy recovery for your pet, it’s important to follow all the advice given in the sessions and follow the prescribed treatment plan. Any treatment to the dog should be at worst mildly uncomfortable, however, your dog will often be stiff, sore, and tired after their session, so make sure they rest for a day or two after care.”

And that’s the end of our tail…

Whether you’ve already seen a chiropractor to treat your pet or if this is a totally new area, we hope you now have a better understanding of animal chiropractic and the benefits it can have for your dog (or even snake)! It’s a great way to ensure your furry friend maintains a spring in their step, ache free.