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Chiropractors and Animals

By:  Jeffrey Smith, DVM

Although several chiropractors offer to perform musculoskeletal manipulation (MSM) on animals, this practice may only be performed by a veterinarian or by a California licensed chiropractor working under the direct supervision of a veterinarian.  Both veterinary and chiropractic associations worked together to create this law in order to protect pets and pet owners, including horses.

According to the California Veterinary Medical Practice Act, MSM is a “system of applications applied manually or mechanically to enhance physical performance, and prevent, cure or relieve impaired or altered function of related components of the musculoskeletal system.”  Only veterinarians with knowledge or training in this area should perform MSM.  Alternatively, a chiropractor (doctor of chiropractic currently licensed to practice in California) may perform MSM if the supervising veterinarian is in the same hospital premise, or in the same general area on a ranch, and within quick and easy response.

It is the responsibility of the treating veterinarian to determine that MSM will not be harmful to the animal.  Since chiropractic is considered an alternative (non-standard) therapy, veterinarians should obtain written consent from the owner that acknowledges this fact.  Injuries to animals have occurred and do continue to occur as the result of improper chiropractic care.  It is important to establish a medical diagnosis first, if at all possible, before proceeding with MSM.  For example, spinal manipulation would be inappropriate on a pet with a fractured vertebra (back bone).

Alternative therapies can help pets when standard medical care has failed.  Some therapies, like animal massage, are effective and gentle, and are not illegal to perform.  Physical therapy, on the other hand, is restricted in much the same way chiropractic is regulated. Likewise, dentistry, whether performed on your pet or on your horse, may only be provided by a veterinarian or by a veterinary technician under direct supervision of a veterinarian.  Most veterinarians are willing to work with providers of alternative therapies as long as those providers are willing to accommodate the standards of practice expected of competent practicing veterinarians.  By following these laws, all parties’ benefit and are protected.

Throughout February, Middletown Animal Hospital will be honoring Pet Dental Month by offering 10% off on either equine or small animal dental services.

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