Veterinary chiropractic, also known as animal chiropractic, is the practice of spinal manipulation or manual therapy for animals. Proposed benefits of veterinary chiropractic include enhanced performance and improved quality of life. Currently, there are uneven regulations and licensing standards across North America. Evidence supporting the efficacy of veterinary chiropractic is limited.
Scope of practice
Traditionally, all animal care fell under the exclusive jurisdiction of veterinarians. With the emergence of veterinary chiropractic, both doctors of chiropractic (DCs) and veterinary medicine (DVMs) can take additional training to become certified in veterinary chiropractic. The minimum standard for practice appears to be a minimum of 210 hours according to the Animal Chiropractic Accreditation Commission  although, in Australia, a 3 year Masters Degree in Chiropractic Science (Animal Chiropractic) is offered to licensed doctors of chiropractic, veterinary and osteopathic medicine. Where regulated, typical restricted acts include diagnosis and spinal manipulation. In some locations, a veterinarian must supervise the treatment provided by the veterinary chiropractor. Veterinary chiropractors typically treat working horses, racing greyhounds, and pets; and recently have been used more extensively to treat ongoing and chronic pain caused by conditions of the neck and back. Those that specialize in horses are referred to as "equine chiropractors." There has been discussion over whether animal chiropractic should be performed by veterinarians, chiropractors, or both.
The American Veterinary Medical Association guidelines recommend that a veterinarian should examine an animal and establish a preliminary diagnosis before any alternative treatment, like chiropractic, is initiated. Before performing a chiropractic adjustment, the doctor examines the animal's gait, posture, and the vertebrae and extremities. In addition to spinal manipulation, other adjustive procedures can be performed to the extremity joints and cranial sutures. Veterinary chiropractors also make neurological evaluations.
History and present status
Chiropractic treatment of large animals dates back to the early 1900s and is common in dogs and popular in horses. Animal chiropractic was formalized in 1989 by Sharon Willoughby, with a 100 hour post-graduate course. The American Veterinary Chiropractic Association (AVCA) is the primary national credential for this field in North America. Certification was developed based upon input and oversight from both professions. Several complementary and alternative veterinary medicine (CAVM) presentations were given in the 2007 annual convention of the American Veterinary Medical Association, including chiropractic care and acupuncture. As of 2008, chiropractors and veterinarians are trained side by side in the Masters Degree in Chiropractic Sciences (Animal Chiropractic) in Australia and the North American AVCA certified programmes, such as Parker College of Chiropractic. The primary agency overseeing the certification of animal chiropractic in North America is the Animal Chiropractic Certification Commission (ACCC) which was developed by both veterinarians and chiropractors. The practice of animal chiropractic is controversial.
Education and certification
North American applicants to veterinary chiropractic programs must have graduated from an accredited veterinary school or CCE-accredited chiropractic school and hold current licenses from their respective provinces or states. In Australia a first professional degree in chiropractic, osteopathic or veterinary medicine is required for admission into the Masters of Chiropractic Science program. Most veterinary chiropractic programs are a minimum of 210 hours of additional training following the completion of veterinary or chiropractic school, and subsequent licensure. Practitioners will be able to complete an appropriate history, physical examination, communicate a diagnosis and plan of management, and provide care where indicated within their respective scopes of practice.
The Animal Chiropractic Accreditation Commission (ACAC) is the de facto accrediting body for veterinary chiropractic. All accredited programs must meet ACAC's minimum requirement of 210 hours. A passing grade of 75 in both the written, theoretical and the clinical competency examination is required for certification. Continuing education requirements of the ACAC are 30 credits every 3 years for recertification. Though few U.S. veterinary schools offer educational or research programs in complementary and alternative veterinary medicine (CAMV), in a survey, 61% of faculty believe that chiropractic should be included in their school's curriculum.
There is limited evidence supporting the effectiveness of spinal manipulation or mobilization for equine pain management and the efficacy of specific equine manual therapy techniques is unknown. The American Animal Hospital Association and the American Association of Feline Practitioners have stated that there is currently insufficient evidence to make specific recommendations about the use of chiropractic intervention for dogs and cats.
Veterinary chiropractic methods can potentially cause injury through the use of inappropriate technique or excessive force. In addition, there is some degree of risk associated with even skilled manipulation in animals as the potential for injury exists with any technique used. This risk may increase in the presence of structural disease, such equine cervical vertebral malformation or canine intervertebral disk disease.
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