Large chocolate lab on chiropractor's table

6 Great Reasons to Get Chiropractic Care for Your Dog

A lot of dog owners may not realize that dogs may sometimes need chiropractic care for their dogs. In fact, many people, including myself at one point, may not even realize that canine chiropractors even exist.

But just like us, dogs get pinched nerves, muscular tension, and spinal and joint alignment problems. If left untreated, these issues can significantly reduce your dog’s quality of life. The six best reasons to get chiropractic care for your dog include:

  • Urgent care for painful joint misalignment
  • Prevention of lameness
  • Comfort care for older and senior dogs
  • Alternatives to surgery
  • Immune system support
  • Natural solutions for your dog’s musculoskeletal system

Keep reading to learn more about the benefits of canine chiropractic care.

See Your Vet First if Your Dog Has Joint or Limb Problems

If your dog suddenly seems to have a problem walking, jumping, or moving around and seems to be in pain, the first thing to do is to take him to your local veterinarian for a full exam. Your vet may order x-rays and blood tests to rule out other conditions such as a pulled muscle or a broken bone. Additionally, your vet may want to ensure that your pet is not suffering from a more chronic condition such as an infection or cancer.

If other factors are ruled out, your vet may refer you to a chiropractor to give your dog some relief. He may also prescribe pain medication or muscle relaxants to help your dog be more comfortable and assist with healing.

Canine chiropractors usually have three different types of credentials: veterinarians who have been trained in animal chiropractic care; chiropractors who have been trained in animal care; and veterinarians who are also chiropractors. In some states such as California, chiropractors who are not vets but have training in animal care must work under the supervision of a vet. See this post, Veterinary Chiropractic Care by VCA Hospitals for more specific information about training and credentials.

Six Ways a Chiropractor Can Help

Urgent Care for Painful Joint Misalignment

Similar to humans, dogs can have very painful and sometimes serious spinal and joint problems. They may experience spinal vertebrae that are bulging or have slipped out of place. More commonly, a dog can have a joint that is seriously misaligned causing him to limp, and struggle to get up. Some dogs who have hip joint problems often sit at an angle or with their hind legs sticking straight out in from of them or to the side.

Misalignments can be so painful, that your dog may not let you help him. They can impact any joint including hips, knees, shoulders, ankles, spine, and neck. Your dog may limp or hop around and hold himself stiffly if he is experiencing joint pain. Fortunately, with gentle manipulation, a chiropractor can ease the joint back into alignment allowing your dog to walk normally again.

Working dogs, dogs who participate in high-impact sports, or dogs who just like to run and jump a lot can be very hard on their joints. These activities can put stress on joints leading to minor injuries and arthritis.

When My Dog Suddenly Started Hopping Around on 3 Legs

My mixed-breed cattle suddenly started limping and was clearly in pain after coming home from the dog park. She started to hop around on just three legs and was struggling just to get up and climb stairs. So, I took her to our vet, and they sedated her to do an x-ray. As they gently moved her legs around to get a better view, my vet said she heard a slight “pop”. The next day she was pretty much back to normal even though a little sore. So, we assumed that the pop was her leg going back into alignment.

The x-rays indicated that she had some arthritis and I was referred to a chiropractor. My dog is nine years old, so that was not too surprising. Plus she is a jumper, which puts a lot of stress on her joints! She now gets gentle adjustments every 4-6 weeks, and the chiropractor showed me how to do some easy and gentle releases at home. So far, so good!

Prevention of Lameness

Many large breeds such as Golden Retrievers and German Shepherds as well as some smaller breeds like French Bulldogs and Pugs can have a genetic disposition to hip dysplasia. But it can also be the result of improper muscle and bone development as a puppy due to overuse as well as lack of proper exercise and conditioning. See my post about when puppies can climb stairs for more about this topic.

Hip dysplasia can become quite serious as the dog ages and can often cause a dog to lose the ability to use his hind legs. It is the result of the femur (thigh bone) not fitting properly into the hip socket. Over time the joint erodes causing a lot of pain and weakness. Other causes of lameness can be physical injury, arthritis, and pinched nerves which interfere with the blood flow for the proper functioning of muscles.

Chiropractic care can help your dog through gentle manipulations that will keep the joints aligned and help prevent damage. Treatments will reduce pain, support healthier bones and muscles, and keep your dog’s legs stronger.

Chiropractic Care can provide Comfort for Older Dogs as They Age

As dogs age, they are more likely to have a lot of wear and tear on their joints which can lead to arthritis, back strain, muscles that become weak and more rigid, and restricted nerves from poor alignment. This can all be part of the aging process.

A chiropractor can make very gentle adjustments to free the nerve constrictions, manipulate joints into alignment, and help a dog to relax and restore blood flow to his muscles. Treatments can also help with uneven gait problems and make it easier for older dogs to keep up with normal activities.

Alternatives to Surgery

Cute daschsund using wheelchair
Cute Daschund happily runs along in his wheelchair.

Conditions like hip dysplasia usually get worse over time. If your dog has this condition, he may need a lot of supportive equipment such as a “dog wheelchair”. This is a device with two wheels that can be strapped to the rear of your dog allowing him to run using only his two front legs.

Ramps and steps for furniture and cars can help as well. But sometimes hip dysplasia can lead to surgery as a last resort. Most vets try to avoid this more extreme option since it is so intrusive and rehabilitation for a dog is more challenging than for a human.

Fortunately, this is where chiropractic care for your dog may be of great benefit and help to avoid surgery. Adjustments can greatly reduce the wear and tear on the hip joint by keeping everything aligned. This will help prevent erosion and damage and will be much less painful and limiting for your dog in the long run. This is also true for other related conditions such as arthritis.

Immune System Support

Chiropractic manipulations relieve tension on tight muscles and free up restricted nerves. This improves good health throughout the body by improving nerve signals and blood flow strengthening muscles and healthy functioning of internal organs.

A chiropractor can help improve not only your dog’s joints, but their digestion, kidney function, and breathing. Chiropractic care often reduces anxiety in dogs by releasing feel-good hormones and helping a dog to relax.

Natural Solutions for your Dog’s Musculoskeletal System

Black and white puppy getting a head massage
Puppy getting a head massage.

Since chiropractors have a very holistic view of care, many are also trained in acupuncture and massage therapy. These modalities can provide healing for chronic problems that cannot otherwise be treated, or they can be done in tangent with other medical treatments. Additionally, a chiropractor may prescribe mineral and vitamin supplements, as well as herbal and homeopathic remedies.

These adjunctive therapies can be extremely beneficial for dogs recovering from injury, cancer or other chronic conditions.

Final Thoughts

Think about all of the back aches, sore muscles, and stiff shoulders you may have from time to time. Then think about how much your dog runs, and plays and jumps into your car or on furniture. Dogs don’t show it, but just like us, our dogs have aches and pains as well.

So do your pooch a favor and consider chiropractic care if you notice any signs of pain or compromise when he walks or gets up. Your best furry friend is totally worth it!