Veterinary chiropractic

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Chiropractic performed on a horse

Veterinary chiropractic, also known as animal chiropractic, is the practice of spinal manipulation or manual therapy for animals.[1] Veterinary chiropractors typically treat horses, racing greyhounds, and pets.[2] It has become a fast developing field in animal alternative medicine.[3]

It remains controversial within certain segments of the veterinary and chiropractic profession.[4] There is some degree of risk associated with even skilled manipulation in animals as the potential for injury exists with any technique used.[5]

The founder of chiropractic, Daniel David Palmer, used the method on animals, partly to challenge claims that the placebo effect was responsible for favorable results in humans.[6] Chiropractic treatment of large animals dates back to the early 1900s.[7] As of 2016, 40 states in the US provide statutory or regulatory guidelines for the practice of chiropractic and related treatments on animals, generally requiring some form of veterinary involvement.[8]



Veterinary chiropractors typically treat horses, racing greyhounds, and pets.[2] Some animal chiropractors perform adjusts on exotic animals such as birds, dolphins[4] elephants, iguanas, turkeys, pigs, and llamas.[9] It has become a fast developing area.[3] A 2011 survey in New Zealand found that use of animal chiropractic on competition race horses is widespread.[10]


The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) guidelines recommend that a veterinarian should examine an animal and establish a preliminary diagnosis before any alternative treatment, like chiropractic, is initiated.[11] Before performing a chiropractic adjustment, the chiropractor examines the animal's gait, posture, and the vertebrae and extremities. The chiropractor may also make neurological evaluations.[12] In addition to spinal manipulation, other adjustive procedures can be performed to the extremity joints and cranial sutures.[12] Those that specialize in horses are referred to as "equine chiropractors."[13]

The AVMA lists chiropractic as a complementary and alternative treatment (CAVM).[14] Other CAVM treatments include acupuncture and physical therapy. The AVMA Model Veterinary Practice Act includes CAVM in the definition of veterinary medicine, and that standard has been adopted in 20 states as of 2016. An additional 20 states have enacted other provisions regarding the use of CAVM on animals, most of which require some type of veterinary input such as supervision or referral.[8] Veterinary chiropractic is not recognized by the American Chiropractic Association as being chiropractic.[15]

Efficacy and safety[edit]

Limited evidence exists on the efficacy of osteopathic or chiropractic methods in equine therapy.[16] 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 mostly anecdotal.[1] Together, the American Animal Hospital Association and the American Association of Feline Practitioners stated in 2015 that there was insufficient "reliable, noncontradictory evidence" for veterinary chiropractic methods in the management of pain.[17] The practice remains controversial.[4]

There is some degree of risk associated with even skilled manipulation in animals as the potential for injury exists with any technique used.[5][18] This risk may increase in the presence of structural disease, such as equine cervical vertebral malformation (CVM) or canine intervertebral disk disease.[5] Horses have been hurt by very forceful animal chiropractic movements.[19] Adjusting the spine of a dog with a degenerative disk runs the risk of serious injury to the spinal cord.[19]

History and certification[edit]

Chiropractic treatment of large animals dates back to the early 1900s.[7] The founder of the field of chiropractic, spiritualist Daniel David Palmer used the method on animals, partly to challenge claims that the placebo effect was responsible for favorable results in humans.[6] In the 1980s, it began to be seen on the margins of veterinary medicine.[20] By the late 1980s, a veterinarian who also was a chiropractor, Sharon Willoughby, developed a training program.[6] With the emergence of veterinary chiropractic, both doctors of chiropractic (DCs) and veterinary medicine (DVMs) became able to take additional training to become certified in veterinary chiropractic. There are two certifying agencies in North America, the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association (AVCA) and the International Veterinary Chiropractic Association(IVCA). Earning certification from either agency requires attending an approved animal chiropractic program followed by AVCA or IVCA written and clinical examinations.[21] In some locations, a veterinarian must supervise the treatment or provide a referral for the treatment by a veterinary chiropractor.[22]


  1. ^ a b Haussler, KK (2010). "The role of manual therapies in equine pain management". Vet Clin North Am Equine Pract. 26 (3): 579–601. doi:10.1016/j.cveq.2010.07.006. PMID 21056301.
  2. ^ a b Kayne, Steven (2004). Veterinary Pharmacy. Pharmaceutical Press. p. 143. ISBN 0-85369-534-2. Retrieved 2008-04-22.
  3. ^ a b Staff (June 8, 2015). "Improve Your Pet's Life With Chiropractic Care". Lake Norman Citizen.
  4. ^ a b c Daniel Kamen (2001). "Politics and technique". Dyn Chiropr. 19 (13).
  5. ^ a b c Ramey D, Keating JC, Imrie R, Bowles D (March 2000). "Claims for veterinary chiropractic unjustified". Can. Vet. J. 41 (3): 169–70. PMC 1476296. PMID 10738593.
  6. ^ a b c Kuchinski, Kristine (2012). Pediatrics of common and uncommon species. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders. pp. 286–287. ISBN 9781455744466.
  7. ^ a b "Complementary and alternative veterinary medicine—such as acupuncture, herbs and chiropractic—becoming more mainstream" (Press release). American Veterinary Medical Association. 2007-07-14. Archived from the original on May 20, 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-30.
  8. ^ a b "Scope of Practice: Complementary and alternative veterinary medicine (CAVM) and other practice act exemptions". American Veterinary Medical Association. March 2016. Retrieved 22 March 2016.
  9. ^ "Animal chiropractors treat elephants, iguanas, turkeys, pigs, llamas, dogs and cats". Daily News. Associated Press. April 21, 2013.
  10. ^ Meredith K, Bolwell CF, Rogers CW, Gee EK (2011). "The use of allied health therapies on competition horses in the North Island of New Zealand". NZ Vet J. 59 (3): 123–127. doi:10.1080/00480169.2011.562861. PMID 21541885.
  11. ^
  12. ^ a b Ellen Shenk (2005). Careers with Animals: Exploring Occupations Involving Dogs, Horses, Cats. Stackpole Books. p. 187. ISBN 0-8117-2962-1. Retrieved 2008-04-23.
  13. ^ Landers, Theodore (2002). The Career Guide to the Horse Industry. Thomson Delmar Learning. pp. 120–1. ISBN 0-7668-4849-3. Retrieved 2008-04-23.
  14. ^ Ramey DW (June 2003). "Regulatory aspects of complementary and alternative veterinary medicine". J Am Vet Med Assoc. 222 (12): 1679–82. doi:10.2460/javma.2003.222.1679. PMID 12830858.
  15. ^ ACA House of Delegates (1994). "'Veterinary' chiropractic". American Chiropractic Association. Archived from the original on May 17, 2008.
  16. ^ Haussler, Kevin K. (2016). "Joint Mobilization and Manipulation for the Equine Athlete". Veterinary Clinics of North America: Equine Practice. 32 (1): 87–101. doi:10.1016/j.cveq.2015.12.003. ISSN 0749-0739. PMID 27012508.
  17. ^ Epstein, M; Rodan, I; Griffenhagen, G; Kadrlik, J; Petty, M; Robertson, S; Simpson, W (2015). "2015 AAHA/AAFP Pain Management Guidelines for Dogs and Cats" (PDF). Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association. 51 (2): 67–84. doi:10.5326/JAAHA-MS-7331. PMID 25764070.
  18. ^ Taylor L, Romano L (March 2000). "Claims for veterinary chiropractic unjustified - A reply". Can. Vet. J. 41 (3): 169–170. PMC 1476304. PMID 17424592.
  19. ^ a b David W. Ramey (2000). "Veterinary Chiropractic". Chirobase.
  20. ^ "More Pet Owners Turn To Pet Chiropractors". KMGH-TV. May 10, 2011.
  21. ^ "Steps to Certification". American Veterinary Chiropractic Association. Retrieved 29 December 2013.
  22. ^ "State Legislative Resources - Issues". Archived from the original on April 17, 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-19.

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