Chiropractic medicine has a long history of misinterpretation. Often they are associated with “subluxations” and “putting things back into place.” To clarify, the lesions veterinary chiropractors manipulate are not necessarily out of place but are actually joints that aren’t moving the way they should be. This could be due to soft tissue, connective tissue, or bones. These doctors are re-instituting motion not only to bring a range of motion back but also to relieve nervous system inhibition.

Why do these occur?

Injuries from playing, repetitive impact, tripping or falling, sleeping wrong- the list goes on and on. When there are restrictions or pain, ambulation can change (limping), forcing the body to compensate elsewhere. These compensations can lead to new restrictions, a bad cycle. An example of this is an injury from playing tug-of-war. The cervical spine may develop a restriction preventing proper turning of the neck to the right. This then can lead to changes in gait in the forelimbs, leading to compensations in the shoulders and elbows. Eventually, this can affect the back.

How does this affect the body?

These restrictions have numerous effects on the body. Mainly, the brain depends on input from the body to continue to function at full capacity. Limiting motion in a joint will restrict the sensory input up to the brain, limiting the information for the brain to work with. The nerves that aren’t being used can atrophy (like a muscle in a cast!) and will then change to pain-sensing instead of motion sensing. Luckily, this can be reversed by clearing the restriction and bringing motion back to the joint.

Athletic dogs, in particular, can benefit from regular veterinary chiropractic care. Hampton Roads Veterinary Hospice & Integrative medicine will begin offering this service in the summer of 2020.

What happens at the appointment?

The physical exam is different, in that the doctor will use a technique called motion palpation to assess the motion within each moving part of the patient. If the motion is restricted, different techniques will be used to revive the proper movement. A full exam will assess restrictions from all ends- the nose to tail and down to the toes.

Often, a full history of injuries, accidents, and lifestyle will be taken. Understanding the goals of the family (and the pet!), and developing expectations for the treatments will be discussed.

What to expect after an adjustment?

Pets should instantaneously be able to move better! They should feel more comfortable, and it should be obvious. If there are a lot of adjustments made, there may be a few tender areas the next day; rarely, new injuries may present that seem unrelated. This can happen while we work together to uncover the primary cause versus the compensation restrictions your pet may have.

What to do after an adjustment?

If your pet is an athlete or very high energy, it’s recommended to stick with the controlled activity. Shorter leash walks, or low impact play. It’s not recommended to have a full training session.

How often should I expect appointments?

This is case dependent. Typically, once weekly, in the beginning, to work through compensations and uncover the primary cause of mobility issues. Moving to a maintenance phase can mean coming in every few months, or as needed if something doesn’t seem right, for a boost.


If you have a pet you think would benefit from veterinary chiropractic, integrative medicine, and/or acupuncture consultation, please contact Hampton Roads Veterinary Hospice, In-Home Euthanasia, and Integrative Medicine at 757-474-5968.


Hampton Roads Veterinary Hospice

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