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Dr. Sue Thompson has been working at the Ranch and Animal Hospital for several years. She completed certification in June 2007 in Animal Chiropractic. One of ONLY 2500 or so in the world!! A new treatment room has been added to the Animal Hospital on the Ridge in Paradise, California and in full operation after May 2011. Dr. Sue is not only be treating dogs and cats but horses as well.
What is Animal Chiropractic?
Chiropractic is a diagnostic and treatment system that is performed by hand that improves joint movement, primarily along the spine but can be used effectively in the limbs. Chiropractic adjustments are small fast energy pulses that help to normalize joint motion. The joints and their surrounding support tissues that do not move normally are called subluxation complexes.
How does it work?
Joints and their surrounding structures are richly supplied with nerves, some are pain fibers and many are sensors that tell the brain where the joint is in 3 dimensional spaces. This information is called proprioception. In other words they let the brain know what the body is doing. Up to 90% of the information that the brain processes is internal function monitoring. The rest is the information from the other 5 senses that monitor the environment.
Improved motion allows for better circulation around the joint so the support tissues get more food and oxygen. This promotes healing and a decrease in local swelling that is often the cause of pain.
Why does this help?
When joints move better it will change the way the muscles that work that joint function. When a joint has been stuck for a long time some of the muscles around it get weak. After more correct motion is restored the previously inactive muscles can start to work again. This can make them sore, like going to the gym and having a big work out if you have not been in a while.
What follow up is recommended?
This is why a patient might get worse before they get better. For the first 24 to 48 hours the brain is learning how to sort out all the changes in information that it is receiving from the now more correctly moving joints. Sometimes a patient feels better right a way and wants to go out and play. It is often better to let all the changes have a chance to settle in and get sorted out by the brain first. Because of this response we often recommend a day or 2 off before resuming normal activity.
This recommendation will vary depending on many factors including how long the problem being worked on has been an issue and if the patient has been adjusted recently. These side effects are most noticeable in patients with chronic (long standing) problems that have never been adjusted before.
What is different between humans and animals?
If you are a patient of Chiropractic yourself you may be used to hearing pops or cracks during your adjustments. We don’t tend to get audible sounds during the adjustments on quadrupeds (our 4 footed friends). We also tend to not need to adjust our animal patients as often as humans. Usually follow up appointments are scheduled for 10 to 14 days to start.
How can you help your pet heal?
You may be asked to start some specific exercises in the form of training and games with your animal in order to help specifically strengthen some of these muscles that have been put back to work by the chiropractic treatment. It takes time for the atrophied muscles to get strong enough to help stabilize the joint they cross. Until they do the joint is prone to reinjury. This is why a series of appointments, every 2 weeks for 6 to 8 weeks, may be recommended. With follow up rechecks once a month for several months. It is important to keep everything working well and give the muscles time to get strong enough to do their job correctly.
How do the animals respond to chiropractic?
Most animals learn to relax and enjoy their adjustments once the initial painful phase is over. Some actually ask for the treatments when they recognize they are having a problem. Unfortunately not all of them figure it out right away. Because it is easier for everybody if the animal is relaxed for their treatment, we have built a new exam room with a separate entrance so there is less association with the regular hospital and the treatments provided by traditional medicine. The only needles allowed in the alternative medicine room are for acupuncture treatments.
One commonly asked question is: how do I know if my pet needs chiropractic care?
There are a few tell tail signs the you can watch for that might give us a hint that an exam is needed.
Watch your pet sit, do they sit straight or do they flop over on to a hip? Is it always the same hip?
Watch them wag, does their tail move evenly to both sides?
Do they turn their head evenly to both sides?
Do they have trouble or stiffness getting up?
Can they or do they jump up as easily as they used to?
If you lightly run your fingers down their back does their skin ripple or do they flinch?
There may be some indicators in their history that can give us clues as well.
Have they had a trauma of some kind?
Run into a wall playing fetch, run into another dog, been in a fight, and had an impact with or in a vehicle?
Have they slipped and fallen on a slick floor?
Do they just not act right but you don’t think they are sick.
Do they not like to be petted or touched they way they used to?
A yes to any of these questions doesn’t mean there is any thing wrong but they are indicators that at least a chiropractic exam might be in order.
Many times there are brief or no symptoms after one of these little incidents but these little bumps and twists can add up over time and lead to more serious problems. It is really nice for all concerned if we can fix the little problems and prevent the big ones. It is a matter of preventative maintenance. It is often less expensive and easier in both time and effort to correct small problems that bigger, long standing ones.