Animal Chiropractic: An Emerging Field of Practice

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Over the past few decades, the field of chiropractic medicine has seen tremendous growth, not only in patient acceptance and use but also in its applications. From sports injuries to chronic pain management, chiropractic care’s scope continues to expand, reflecting its efficacy and adaptability. One particularly intriguing development is the growing interest and demand for animal chiropractic.

Traditionally, the application of chiropractic practices was strictly within the realm of human health. However, we’re witnessing a marked shift. As our understanding of animal anatomy and physiology deepens, so does the recognition that non-human creatures can reap the same benefits from chiropractic adjustments as humans do.

This article aims to discuss the emergence and growing importance of animal chiropractic, delineating its history, applications, and future prospects. By deepening your understanding, we hope to inspire chiropractors to explore this exciting frontier of practice and extend their healing touch beyond humans.

The Genesis of Animal Chiropractic

Historically, animal chiropractic traces its roots to the late 19th century when DD Palmer performed the first-ever chiropractic adjustment. Inspired by Palmer’s work, his student, BJ Palmer, later wrote about potential applications of chiropractic care in animals. However, it was only in the late 20th century that animal chiropractic began gaining wider recognition.

In 1986, Dr. Sharon Willoughby-Blake, a veterinarian and chiropractor, started teaching seminars about animal chiropractic, which eventually led to the establishment of the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association (AVCA) in 1989. This organization aimed to promote and support veterinary professionals in incorporating chiropractic care into their practice.

Understanding Animal Chiropractic

Like its human-focused counterpart, animal chiropractic emphasizes the relationship between structure (primarily the spine) and function (as coordinated by the nervous system) to restore and preserve health.

The underlying principle is similar: Misalignments in the spinal column, known as subluxations, can interfere with the functioning of the nervous system. Such interference can cause various symptoms, ranging from physical discomfort to decreased mobility and performance issues in pets and livestock alike.

Applications of Animal Chiropractic

Animal chiropractic is beneficial in treating a multitude of health issues and enhancing the overall well-being of an array of creatures. It is applicable to pets such as dogs and cats, livestock including cows and horses, and even birds and exotic animals.

Primarily, chiropractic care is used to treat musculoskeletal problems such as back pain, neck pain, stiffness, poor mobility, and performance issues in working animals. Chiropractic treatment can also be beneficial in managing chronic illnesses such as arthritis or neurological disorders.

In the realm of competitive animal sports, equine and canine chiropractic are becoming increasingly prevalent. Many horse and dog trainers and owners now employ chiropractic techniques to enhance performance, speed recovery from injury, and maintain overall health.

Education and Training in Animal Chiropractic

As the demand for animal chiropractic increases, so does the need for properly trained practitioners. The AVCA provides certification courses for both veterinarians and chiropractors interested in offering animal chiropractic services. The course typically includes intensive study of animal anatomy and neurology, hands-on techniques, and supervised clinical hours.

Chiropractors and veterinarians who become certified by the AVCA are recognized as being competent in animal chiropractic care at a professional level, instilling confidence in pet owners and animal caretakers who seek their services.

The Legal Landscape of Animal Chiropractic

It’s crucial to acknowledge that the legal landscape for animal chiropractic varies significantly worldwide and even within countries. Generally, in many regions, chiropractic care for animals is considered a form of veterinary medicine, meaning only licensed veterinarians or individuals working under direct veterinary supervision can legally perform these services.

However, certain jurisdictions allow chiropractors to provide services to animals, provided they have appropriate qualifications and work in collaboration with a veterinarian. It’s always advisable for chiropractors interested in this field to familiarize themselves with local regulations and ensure they have the necessary permissions and qualifications.

The Future of Animal Chiropractic

Animal chiropractic is a field poised for significant growth. As more and more pet owners and animal caretakers seek holistic and non-invasive treatments for their animals, the demand for trained animal chiropractors is expected to rise.

Research in animal chiropractic is also burgeoning, with an increasing number of studies validating the efficacy and safety of chiropractic treatments in animals. As the evidence base grows, we anticipate greater acceptance and integration of animal chiropractic within mainstream veterinary practice.

For the chiropractic profession, this expanding frontier opens new avenues for practice and provides opportunities for rewarding and fulfilling work. It allows chiropractors to broaden their impact, contribute to animal welfare, and establish a unique niche in a growing market.


As our understanding of health evolves, it becomes clear that the principles of chiropractic care apply not just to humans, but to all vertebrates. Animal chiropractic represents an exciting convergence of veterinary medicine and chiropractic care, driven by a holistic approach to health and wellness.

The growth and development of this field offer an exciting opportunity for chiropractors to expand their skills and practice, providing holistic, non-invasive care to a new patient base. For chiropractors ready to extend their reach beyond human patients and contribute to the burgeoning field of animal health and wellness, there’s never been a better time to explore the world of animal chiropractic.

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