K9 Basics is happy to share the news of a valuable service we offer: dog chiropractic care! Just as people benefit from chiropractic adjustments and other treatments, so can your dog. So, we are introducing Dr. Melissa Shaw, DC, from our K9 team!

Dr. Shaw has been a chiropractor for 14 years and has her own practice working with people, Shaw Chiropractic. Recently she decided to treat pets as well.

“Basically, chiropractic is good for everyone. Animals also need chiropractic because they go through the same things we do — muscle spasms, disc issues, sore muscles, all those different things.”

So, she completed 200+ hours of postgraduate work to become a Certified Animal Chiropractor through the International Veterinary Chiropractic Association

About Chiropractic Care for Dogs

A Trending Idea 

Chiropractic care for dogs is steadily becoming more popular. A growing number of veterinarians are either recommending the treatment or becoming certified to provide it.

Licensed veterinarians recommend dog chiropractic as a treatment for injuries, chronic pain, and even issues such as separation anxiety and incontinence

Who Can Provide Chiropractic Treatment for Dogs?

Providing chiropractic treatment for dogs requires certification. One must first be either a licensed veterinarian (DVM) or a chiropractor for humans (DC). They are required to complete 210 hours of training that the Animal Chiropractic Certification Commission has approved. 

Coordinating with Veterinarians

Chiropractic care does not take the place of veterinary care for your dog. Rather, it complements traditional medical treatments. That’s why it’s important to consult with your veterinarian before pursuing chiropractic care. 

“I always like to get a veterinary referral,” Dr. Shaw says, “because I’m not a veterinarian. I don’t want people coming to me first. I might miss something that the vet would immediately find. A vet’s evaluation gives me all the necessary information I need, such as disc issues or other things I need to know about upfront.”

Chiropractic care for your dog may be a good option when, for example, traditional treatments aren’t getting the expected results or to help manage pain relief. It can also be a regular practice to maintain good health.

Prevention and Maintenance

Chiropractic treatment for dogs can be helpful for a wide array of problems by removing the subluxations in their spine. 

“A lot of people associate chiropractic with just pain relief,” Dr. Shaw says. “True, we do give pain relief, but it’s really about keeping the body functioning at an optimal level and making it work.”

Maintenance and prevention are particularly advantageous for dogs because when they are in pain, they often don’t show it. That goes back to their wild ancestors, when showing pain made them more vulnerable to attack. Also, our dogs can’t tell us about their pain. 

“It usually takes getting to the point where they’re limping or not acting right for us to realize that there’s something wrong,” Dr. Shaw says. “Whereas if we’re giving them chiropractic care as maintenance, their bodies stay in alignment, and their nervous system works properly. If the nervous system works properly, so does the whole body.”

Symptoms: When Your Dog Might Need Chiropractic Treatment

A chiropractor for humans addresses musculoskeletal issues, and the same is true for a dog chiropractor. Anything that hints at a subluxation—a misalignment of vertebrae—may benefit from a trip to the chiropractor. A subluxation can cause pain, stiffness, tension, and limited mobility. 

There is a wide range of possible symptoms, such as:

  • Limping;
  • Neck or back pain;
  • Sitting with the legs out to the side;
  • Oversensitive to touch;
  • Abnormal gait.

A dog may also have trouble moving (i.e., walking, jumping, climbing stairs) or even standing still. 

In addition to traditional medical care, dogs can benefit from chiropractic care for several ailments, such as serious injuries, hip dysplasia, osteoarthritis, and nervous system disorders. 

Chiropractic Treatment for Dogs

Initial Examination

After a veterinarian has referred a patient to the chiropractor, there is an initial exam and then a treatment plan. 

Dr. Shaw summarizes the procedure:

“In the examination, I check neurologic signs, balance, and reflexes, and then I evaluate their muscles and look for imbalances. I also check their gait. All these things help me figure out what I need to do. I’m not diagnosing or treating anything specific. I’m just looking for the subluxation in the spine.”

Adjustment

A chiropractic adjustment for dogs is quite different from those for humans.  

“They’re flexible because they’re on four legs. So the chiropractic adjustment is actually just a flick or twitch of my muscle. It’s very gentle. It actually just looks like I’m petting them,” Dr. Shaw observes. 

Adjustments entail gentle manual spinal manipulation of the spine and joints. The first adjustment may be a bit uncomfortable because they are focused on already painful areas, but as the range of motion improves, the dog experiences relief of pain and stress as the nervous system begins to properly function again.

“A lot of people are nervous about doing this for their dogs,” Dr. Shaw notes. “But it’s so gentle, and they love it. After the second adjustment, the dogs will come over right away to me and present themselves like, ‘Okay, fix me now!'” 

How Soon Can You Start Chiropractic Treatment?

“You can start as early as four months,” Dr. Shaw advises. “The first subluxations can even happen at birth because of the rough motion as they are delivered. The nice thing about that is if you’re getting them adjusted early, you’re keeping that mobility for them as they age.”

Are There Side Effects?

The only side effect for some dogs is a slight discomfort following early treatment. They may also sleep for several hours after treatment. 

A Helpful Addition to Your Dog’s Care

Any dog can benefit greatly from chiropractic care for a specific illness, injury, or health maintenance. 

“What I see with these dogs after adjustments is unbelievable,” Dr. Shaw says. “Removing the interference between the brain and body can do amazing things. I’m happy to help their bodies start the healing process after their first chiropractic treatment.”

Untreated musculoskeletal disorders can cause a rapid decline in overall health and restrict movement and flexibility. Chiropractic is a natural, drug-free, non-invasive treatment option that is becoming more popular as pet parents see the resulting improvements. 

We at K9 Basics are happy to offer this new service and to have Dr. Shaw join our team. Contact us to learn more and to schedule an appointment. We’re here to help! In the meantime, check out our blog for more information on dog training!