MD, PhD, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd

I am sure you always wanted to know what animal chiropractic is all about!

This website explains it quite well:

START OF QUOTES

…Animal chiropractic (veterinary spinal manipulative therapy) focuses on the preservation and health/wellness of the neuro-musculo-skeletal system. Chiropractic is the science that is centered around the relationship between the spine and the nervous system. The spine is your body’s foundation and the nervous system, including your brain, spinal cord and nerves, controls your entire body. They must work together harmoniously to improve one’s general health and their ability heal. If the systems are not functioning to their highest potential you may experience changes in digestion, heart and lung function, reproduction and most evidently musculature. When adjacent joints are in an abnormal position, called a subluxation, the nervous system and all that it controls will be negatively impacted. If these subluxations are not corrected, they can result in prolonged inappropriate stimulation of nerves. This could result in reduced function internally, musculo-skeletal dysfunction and pain.

Spinal manipulation is the art of restoring full and pain free range of motion to joints and can greatly benefit an animal after they have experienced subluxations. The veterinarian will use their hands to palpate joints both statically and in motion. By doing this, they can determine where the animal is experiencing decreased motion or misaligned joints. Once identified, an adjustment can be performed. An adjustment or spinal manipulation is a gentle, specific, quick and low force thrust that will be applied at an angle specific to the different areas of motion in the spine and extremities. Only a certified animal chiropractor will understand the complexity involved in adjustments and can best assess if an animal can benefit from chiropractic care.

Many animals can benefit from this alternative therapy. If you notice that your animal has a particularly sensitive spot somewhere on their body, is walking or trotting differently and or not performing to the same ability they have previously, they may be a candidate for a chiropractic assessment. However, an animal does not need to be sick or injured to benefit from chiropractic care. Animals in good health or ones used for sporting activities are also prime candidates for chiropractic care. By maintaining your pet’s proper spinal alignment and mobility they will attain optimal function of muscles, nerves and tissues that support the joints. When the body can move freely your pet will experience improved mobility, stance and flexibility, which can evolve into improved agility, endurance and overall performance. Finally, many people have never considered that chiropractic care can also benefit their animal by boosting their immune response. It can aid in providing a healthier metabolism and a vibrant nervous system which all facilitate your animal’s natural ability to heal themselves from within. Chiropractic care can enhance the quality of your pet’s life ensuring many active and healthy years to come.

…during veterinary school I began the process of researching how to become an animal chiropractor or veterinary spinal manipulative therapist. As I researched further, I noticed that this specialized profession has grown. It became apparent that one should be certified by either the College of Animal Chiropractors or American Veterinary Chiropractic Association to practice on animals…  It was surprising to find out that there are only four programs in the USA and Canada that are approved by both organizations. The courses consisted of over 200 hours of intensive study and hands on learning followed by certification testing…

END OF QUOTE

Yes, I did shorten the quote a bit but, rest assured, I did not cut out a single word about the efficacy of animal chiropractic. Even if I had wanted to, I couldn’t: there is no mention of it in the article.

I wonder why!

Looking into Medline, I found several reports related to the subject:

  • One study suggested an association between chiropractic findings in the lumbar vertebrae and urinary incontinence and retention in dogs.
  • A case report highlighted the potential benefits of combining traditional medical management with chiropractic treatment and physical therapy techniques for management of severe acute-onset torticollis in a giraffe.
  • A review explained that there is limited evidence supporting the effectiveness of spinal mobilization and manipulation in animals.
  • An observational study suggested that chiropractic manipulations elicit slight but significant changes in thoracolumbar and pelvic kinematics.
  • A comparative study measured the spinal mechanical nociceptive thresholds in 38 horses, and showed that they increased by 27, 12 and 8% in the chiropractic, massage and phenylbutazone groups, respectively.

… and that was basically it. Not a single study to suggest that chiropractic is effective for specific conditions of animals.

Frustrated, I went on the site of the ‘College of Animal Chiropractic’; surely there I would find the evidence I was looking for. They offer lots of platitudes and this largely nonsensical statement:

“When a joint become restricted in its range of motion(hypomobile or ‘locked-up’), through trauma, repetitive injury, degenerative changes, or structural stresses, the surrounding tissues are affected. This, in turn, further affects the joints ability to move freely and sensitive structures are activated causing the area to be sensitive or painful. Nerves are the communication links between all tissues in the body to the brain and spinal cord; when joint dysfunction is present, messages to other areas are also affected, which can lead to pain, weakness, reduced function, and compensatory changes. Animal chiropractic focuses on the restoration of movement and the promotion of heath by restoring normal joint mechanics and soft-tissue function, thus, normalizing neurological patterns that facilitate healing . The main tool an animal chiropractor uses to restore joint motion is called an “adjustment”, or veterinary spinal manipulation. This gentle, specialized, manual skill, involves the application of a quick, low-force maneuver that is directed to a specific area of a joint at a specific angle. A certified animal chiropractor understands these joint angles intimately and can best asses if an animal can benefit from chiropractic care, and, is the only professional who is qualified to adjust your pet.”

But no evidence!

By now I was desperate. My last hope was the ‘American Veterinary Chiropractic Association’. All I found there, however, was this: the “American Veterinary Chiropractic Association (AVCA) is a professional membership group promoting animal chiropractic to professionals and the public, and acting as the certifying agency for doctors who have undergone post-graduate animal chiropractic training.”

Not a jot of evidence!

The assumption that animal chiropractic is effective seems to rely on the evidence from human studies…

… and we all know how solid that body of evidence is!

My conclusion from all this: chiropractors treating animals and those treating humans have one important characteristic in common.

THEY HAPPILY PROMOTE BOGUS TREATMENTS.

7 Responses to HAPPILY PROMOTING BOGUS TREATMENTS: the story of animal chiropractic

  • I always find individuals who perform pseudo-medicine on animals unspeakable. Especially when they are trained vets. Such individuals should lose their licences to practise, period. Animals can’t make informed choices in their therapy; their owners can.

    • Such individuals should lose their licences to practise, period.

      Indeed. They should be convicted for animal cruelty. Animals can’t speak and are usually in a situation of dependence. Hence, they will tend to react in a way they think will please their keepers. Also, in nature, showing weakness tends not to be a good idea. As a result, many – if not most – animals will tend to fool their keepers into thinking they are happy and well when they are actually suffering in agony.

  • It’s important to note that the vast majority of ‘animal Chiropractic’ is done with spring-loaded or electric ‘hammer-guns’….as it’s almost impossible to plausibily manually manipulate any 4 legged creature. Additionally how prey tell would the subluxation be discovered….and how would the students gain competence? Finding Fixated-vertebra in humans is neither reliable or valid….and the vast majority of painful vertebrae are demonstrably “hyper-mobile”…In animals it’s utter fraud.
    Most interesting of course is the charlatan that invented the Activator spring-loaded adjusting gun (“Dr” Arlan Fuhr DC) requires an elaborate theatrical leg-check analysis to find subluxations (now referred to with the sciency moniker “facilitated segment”) which would seem difficult to say the least.
    So animal chiropractic is like human Chiropractic: pseudo-doctors whacking in a desultory manner on a warm body telling themselves and the patient it has a purpose.

  • They know just enough science lingo to convince and fool the average consumer. Much worse, they also con some animal experts as Veterinarians and animal trainers like Cesar Milan, who is a world renowned dog trainer in syndication who occasionally “consults” alternative quacks like this, claiming miraculous results, when the more obvious explanations are the excellent training techniques . Animals, like us, have brains that can respond to repetition, consistency, kindness and rewards, and do NOT respond to acupuncture or fake spinal adjustments that allegedly “boost the immune system” as claimed above, or boost any other organ system in mammalian bodies. They will likely start selling magic detox “remedies” by mouth or colon cleansing if not already do so. Come on people! Quit buying all this garbage and shut down the con artists.

  • thank you edzard for including veterinary medicine in your quest to expose charlatanism and pseudoscience posing under the guise of medicine. Animals like children , have no voice of their own in matters of medicine and are dependent on us to be their advocates.

    the unfortunate reality is continued expansion of the lucrative market of cam schools using beguiling marketing and appealing to popular but mistaken memes when it comes to veterinary medicine. I describe the practitioners using these therapies as at best earnest but misguided and at worst, pure charlatans.

  • We looked closely at the “education” of animal chiropractors, and what we found was even more appalling than expected.
    Here are our results:
    https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/an-appraisal-of-courses-in-veterinary-chiropractic/

  • Wm. A. Watson, Chiropractor wrote: I would think it important to have chiropractic used on any vertebrate. Think of the savings in research since we wouldn’t have to do double blind studies with animals!

    Where did you ever get the idea that blinded studies couldn’t be done on animals? For example:

    When I was in school, there was an announcement that came over the classroom ‘intercom’ that said, “Dr Pogrelis will be Adjusting a dog in room 22 at eleven-thirty.” People clamored to get a front row and watch the drama unfold. The dog was, how shall I put it — a dog … frisky, wet nose, tongue out, tail-wagging, ready to please. The canine was then placed on his side, at which time the chiropractor determined his LOC (Line of Correction), and then delivered a “toggle” to the Atlas. PRESTO! The dog leapt from the table — frisky, wet-nose, tongue out, tail wagging, ready to please.

    The students were AWED at the spectacle, all murmuring to each other how the dog seemed to be SO much better. Like you, their expectation was that “it [is] important to have chiropractic used on any vertebrate.”

    You see, no one ever said it was the animal that needed blinding in these studies.

    ~TEO.

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