Aging is not easy for anyone, especially our dogs. Their back end gets weaker, it is hard to get up and down, they quit using stairs, they experience discomfort, and so much more. This can be tough for a pet owner to come to grips with.
However, what if I told you animal chiropractic care could help? I see it all the time in our practice. It helps with mobility problems, comfort, activity levels, and can even slow the progression of arthritis. In this article I’ll define who is considered a senior dog, explain what animal chiropractic is, list some issues it helps, and then inform you how to find a properly trained animal chiropractor.
Who is considered a senior dog?
As many people know, dogs age much faster than we do. However, did you know certain breeds and different size dogs age differently than others? Generally speaking, smaller breeds live longer than larger breeds. Since this is the case, I believe the best definition for a senior dog is any animal that is in the last 25% of their life based on the standard for the breed. This is usually when we start to see weakness in the rear, discomfort getting up and down, a decrease in activity, and the progression of arthritis. So, how can animal chiropractic help this? We must first define what animal chiropractic is.
What is animal chiropractic?
Many people have at least heard of chiropractic for humans. However, many people are confused as to what chiropractic actually is! Chiropractors train to evaluate the spine for structural dysfunction, often referred to as subluxations.
Subluxations are areas in the spine that aren’t moving as they should or are in the wrong position. When dysfunction like this occurs, inflammation can build up and stress joints, nerves, and more leading to pain and reduced function. To correct this, a chiropractor palpates and motions the spine searching for heat secondary to inflammation, muscle spasm, and joints that aren’t moving well. When they locate a problematic area, a correction is given via an adjustment to restore normal biomechanics. When it comes to animal chiropractic, the adjustment is very gentle and there’s typically no cracking or popping!
What conditions might animal chiropractic help a senior dog with?
The spine of a senior dog has endured a lifetime of wear and tear. This contributes to things we frequently see in practice such as:
- Decreased mobility
- Decreased rear muscle tone
- Arthritis and more
Many of these symptoms are secondary to subluxations of the spine, and they often intertwine.
How does this happen? Initially, a joint quits moving well. This doesn’t cause too many problems at a young age, but things can snowball later if we don’t correct it. Eventually, inflammation builds up to a point where it is uncomfortable for a dog to fully engage a joint. When this happens, a pet owner might notice a dog doesn’t want to use stairs any more or really struggles getting rested in any position.
Over time, this discomfort starts to affect the muscles. If it is painful to get up from laying down or to walk, a dog will not do it. The muscles start to atrophy, and even more stress is placed on the joints because there’s less muscle to support it. There’s an old adage that applies here, use it or lose it – and they will certainly lose muscle tone if they don’t use it. This becomes cyclical and the discomfort leads to less movement and more muscle wasting, which leads to even less movement and even more muscle wasting.
This will also contribute to arthritis. Arthritis is the result of chronic inflammation and abnormal stress on a joint. Arthritis doesn’t form overnight. It is the result of abnormal biomechanics over long periods of time. A subluxation left uncorrected is exactly this. The lack of normal motion in the joint will lead to an inability to pump inflammation away. The longer the inflammation sits there the longer, the longer it eats away at cartilage. In addition, this loads a joint up with abnormal stress and combined these progressively lead to arthritis.
The great thing about animal chiropractors is that they train to find and correct subluxations! This will help alleviate many of the problems senior dogs deal with. An adjustment will restore normal motion to a joint. Restoring motion allows joints to pump inflammation away. With a decrease in inflammation, there’s a decrease in pain. When the pain is gone, the dog is more willing to be active and is much more mobile. This will lead to increased muscle tone.
Needless to say, animal chiropractic can be a very important therapy for an aging dog. However, who is trained appropriately to work with animals?
How do I find an animal chiropractor?
There are two routes to become an animal chiropractor. A practitioner must first complete veterinary or chiropractic school and receive their doctorate. After that, they will attend additional training for animal chiropractic at a different program. These programs usually encompass hundreds of hours of additional training which includes a textbook and hands on curriculum. At the end of training, they will then have an opportunity to certify with one of the major boards. These boards include the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association or the International Veterinary Chiropractic Association.
My personal recommendation would be to search out someone who is board certified. However, if there is no one local then my next recommendation would be to find a practitioner who attended a program that prepares them for these boards. Some of these programs include Options for Animals, Healing Oasis, the Parker University animal chiropractic program, or ACES.
Unfortunately, it is inevitable that members of our fur family will age. This is typically accompanied by decreased energy, discomfort, weakness in the back end, and reduced mobility. However, there are natural solutions such as animal chiropractic that can help. Is your dog entering their golden years? Find an animal chiropractor today!
Interested in learning more about other ways to help your senior pet? Check out our article on natural treatments for dogs with arthritis.