chiropractic care can make dogs and cats happier

Certain misalignments in your dog or cat’s spine cause nervous system changes that can impact his emotional well-being. By correcting the structural issues, chiropractic adjustments mean a calmer, happier animal.

Chiropractic care has many physical benefits for pets – but it also has emotional benefits that can make him happier as well as healthier. Certain misalignments in your dog or cat’s spine may have a negative impact on his mood and behavior. Chiropractic adjustments to those areas can correct these problems and get him back on an even keel, in more ways than one.

Let’s start by looking at the ways in which spinal misalignments affect the nervous system and subsequently your pet’s emotional well-being.

1. The spine and nervous system

The nervous system controls and coordinates all organs and structures of the body. This system is protected by the spinal column, so misalignment or subluxations to the vertebrae can irritate particular nerves, affecting their function and that of the structures and organs they control.

When subluxations occur to any of the top three vertebrae of the cervical spine, possible effects range from nervousness and restlessness to attitude changes and anxiety. In addition, the production of serotonin and dopamine (the “happy chemicals”) is jeopardized.

When subluxations occur to any of the top three vertebrae of the cervical spine, possible effects range from nervousness and restlessness to attitude changes and anxiety.

2. Effects on opioid receptors

Happiness is a chemical reaction. Opioid receptors in the brain (named because they are easily stimulated by drugs called opioids) can become agitated when an animal’s nervous system is out of balance. This causes the body to become flighty because it is trying to figure out a way to quiet the receptors; the result can be behaviors that look like the “flight” part of the “fight or flight” mode.

3. Pain and depression

Nervous system imbalance is also associated with pain and depression. The same nervous pathways that are stimulated during depression are also stimulated during pain, especially chronic pain, which means pain can mimic depression. And both can negatively your pet’s emotional wellness. This chemical lookalike pattern can also be similar to the flighty behavior seen when the opioid receptors are agitated.

How chiropractic helps

Animals under routine chiropractic care have more balanced nervous systems than those that aren’t. A healthy spine and nervous system keeps your pet’s energy flow balanced, his immune system strong and his resistance to disease high. An unhealthy, unbalanced spine can interfere with the natural flow of energy through the body, creating blockages and imbalances that may cause both physical and emotional fatigue.

Chiropractic care removes the interference to the nervous system by correcting the misalignment and allowing the body to heal itself. When the nervous system is able to better communicate with all the body parts. The opioid receptors are better served, and the pet is calmer, feels less pain, depression and stress (see sidebar) and is consequently happier and better able to enjoy life.

Chiropractic care removes the interference to the nervous system by correcting the misalignment.

Chiropractic and cortisol

Animals who are under constant stress are at higher risk for chronic health problems, including heart disease. In fact, studies show that when the body is stressed, it goes into survival mode and produces more cortisol. High levels of cortisol are linked to an increased risk for heart disease, diabetes, weight gain and poor sleeping habits. Additionally, chronic stress results in muscle tension and contractions which in turn lead to uneven pressure on the skeleton. Achieving a balanced spine is a big part of reducing your pet’s stress levels.

Chiropractic care can help the body reduce cortisol levels, remove toxins from the body and leave your animal feeling less stressed. And since chiropractic adjustments focus on realigning the spine, they ease the stress placed on certain parts of the body, relieving muscle tension.

Good heart nerve function = happiness

The heart has recently been found to be important for emotional relationships – not just in a Valentine’s way, but in a chemical way as well. It produces as much, if not more, oxytocin than the centers of the brain do. Oxytocin is a hormone for attachment and comfort. Maintaining heart nerve function is essential for happiness, and can be achieved with routine chiropractic care.


Dr. Bill Ormston graduated from Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine in 1988. After attending Options For Animals in 1998 he received certification from the AVCA and began using chiropractic to treat his animal patients. Jubilee Animal Health is a mobile mixed animal practice in the Dallas Metroplex area where he cares for pets and horses using mostly alternative methods. He is one of the founding instructors of the post graduate course in Animal Chiropractic at Parker Chiropractic College in Dallas. Dr.O has lectured both nationally and internationally on Animal Chiropractic and biomechanics and gait analysis in the quadruped. He has written booklets on chiropractic care in the dog and horse and a book about blending traditional and alternative care in pets.