The look on Son the horse’s face said, “I’m not sure I like what you’re doing,” as veterinarian Rebecca Erwin, manually adjusted his spine using a technique called veterinary chiropractic.
Erwin will finish her certification in veterinary chiropractic Feb. 9 after beginning schooling in October.
“I’m a big believer,” she said. “I go to a chiropractor myself, to stay healthy and it’s worked well for me so I hope it will work well for my patients.”
The techniques for veterinary chiropractic are similar to techniques on people except for the use of high velocity and low amplitude thrusts that allow more pressure and are more effective on larger animals. It is also abnormal to hear pops and cracks in animals.
“People often ask me when I adjust a horse how that works because they are so big and I’m so small,” Erwin said.
She stands on a big foam block to get the right height when working on a horse’s spine.
“That’s really the only tool we used,” she said. “The rest is mostly upper body strength. We go through many hours of training to teach us how to keep our upper bodies strong, because doing this can take its toll. It’s a lot of pressure I put on certain parts of my body when making adjustments on animals.”
Most animals are concerned with the process at first, Erwin said.
“It’s a different way of going around and touching them so they don’t really know what to think,” she said. “Usually after their first few adjustments they realize it feels good and makes them feel good and calm down.”
Erwin decided to get certified for veterinary chiropractic because she believes in preventive care.
“It’s a supplementary and integrative treatment that can help with a number of things the animal could be experiencing,” she said.
Veterinary chiropractic can be used for pain management, lameness, to boost immune system, and for better movement.
Chiropractic is mostly used for athletic animals and older animals. Horses, dogs, and cats are Erwin’s most common patients at Animal Health Center. Treatments can range from once a month to once a year depending on an animal’s activity and age.
She has been treating a blue heeler, Darcy, with chiropractic for several months. Darcy suffered from urinary tract infections. Since undergoing monthly chiropractic treatments, Darcy has not had another infection, Erwin said.
“She has had no issues and is doing very well,” she said. “It’s not something that is offered around here extensively, but I think that more people are interested in preventive treatments and that’s why they like it.”
In other patients, especially horses, she has noticed increased movement and flexibility.
Veterinarian Brendan Kraus, of Spur Ridge Vet Hospital, who is also going through the certification process, said he has also seen improvement in his chiropractic patients.
“I’ve seen improvements in several dogs I have treated with back or neck pain that were unable to jump,” he said. “We were able to find the place in the spine that was out of alignment and make things better.”
He has also seen improvement in horses, especially barrel racers who now can perform better because of the increased flexibility chiropractic treatments have provided.
“It’s about treating the nervous system and locating places in the spine that aren’t moving correctly and adjusting them to get proper movement,” he said. “Since the spine is connected to all the areas of the body in some way, adjustments help many other areas.”
Kraus began training in veterinary chiropractic because of its growing popularity as a credible treatment and to increase his skill set as a veterinarian.
“It’s something we have a pretty big market for, especially for horses, but it also has uses for small animals and I like being able to offer that treatment line to my patents,” he said.