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Veterinary Spinal Manipulative Therapy - It's chiropractic care for animals!

Written by Jennifer Rouse, DVM CCRP Nov 9 • 3 minute read

What is Veterinary Spinal Manipulation Therapy (VSMT) and how does that help my pet? 

No bones about it! Chiropractic care has an important place in mobility and pain management. In people, there is growing research to show that chiropractic treatment is a gentle and effective therapy that can help with problems ranging from back & neck pain to sciatica, to headaches, TMJ problems, sacroiliac dysfunction and myofascial pain to list a few. In animals, these conditions occur and can also be managed by a similar treatment called veterinary spinal manipulative therapy. This therapy is used for both acute and chronic conditions as well as to maintain health and wellness.

What makes up a VMST treatment? 

Treatments consist of traction, gentle range of motion, mobilizations and specific adjustments to restricted joints. VMST is effective for both pain relief and to restore normal motion to a treated area.

How do I know if my pet needs an assessment or treatment? 

Many neurologic and musculoskeletal conditions are helped by this therapy (see list below) but it is not just for patients with problems! It is thought to be most beneficial for the maintenance of normal movement and prevention of injuries. Almost all human sports teams have chiropractors on their healthcare team to keep their competitors functioning at peak performance. Animal athletes need this care too!

Does my pet have to be a certain age to have this therapy performed?

VMST can be performed on patients ranging from juveniles (puppies, kittens, foals, etc) to adults to geriatric patients. Some examples of each are:

  • Puppies. They are brutal! They jump and run and wrestle with their littermates, and sometimes, their joints and muscles get into trouble from all the rough housing. VMST can help to restore any restrictions that may be forming in joint motion and can help to give healthy feedback to their developing muscles and neurologic system. 
  • Adults. Whatever their job, however they do it, pets often get into trouble. Whether chasing a squirrel, a ball, or a frisbee, getting t-boned by another dog at the dog park, or performing in sports events, adult animals often need maintenance and sometimes corrective adjustments to keep them healthy and moving. 
  • Geriatrics. As much as we wish they stay young forever, pets age as humans do and when chronic conditions like arthritis affect movement, it can be distressing both for the pet and their owners. Adjustments are a safe, effective way to treat for pain and movement restrictions without the use of drugs that may be risky in these patients. Additionally, these patients often may already be on drugs that are now not working to relieve their symptoms. 

 Is there a bone out of place? Aren't you just cracking knuckles? How does it work?

Nope, Nope, and like this:

Without getting too much into the neurophysiology of an adjustment, it is a high velocity, low amplitude (high speed, low force) thrust placed at a precise location and orientation to the restricted joint to stimulate the nervous system to reduce tension and pain in an affected area through it's influence on the muscles and other tissues. In human adjustments, there can often be an audible "crack" or cavitation of the treated joint, but this is not commonly observed in animals despite the same type of thrust delivered. 

How do I get my pet started with VMST?

After a thorough initial exam, our doctor will determine if your pet is a good candidate for spinal manipulation and will make appropriate individualized recommendations and adjustments. If your pet is not a good candidate, she will explain why and discuss additional diagnostics and/or referrals to other specialists to address your pet's condition. Animals often love their VMST treatments and look forward to their visits. Ready to get started? Contact our office through the widget at the bottom of this website for more information on how to schedule an appointment. We are looking forward to helping your pet!

Conditions that benefit from a spinal manipulation consultation:

  • Neurologic conditions
    • Prevention of and conservative management of intervertebral disk disease (IVDD)
    • Wobbler’s disease
    • Chronic back and neck pain
  • Orthopedic conditions
    • Arthritis
    • Hip dysplasia
    • Spondylosis
    • Musculoskeletal weakness or pain
  • Incontinence (fecal or urinary)
  • Maintenance of healthy mobility
  • Maintenance of top athletic performance
  • Various conditions not responding to conventional medical care




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