What chiropractic care can do for your senior canine

Whether you want to address age-related conditions in your older dog, or help prevent your younger canine from developing these issues as he ages, regular chiropractic care is a valuable tool. 

Older dogs are often diagnosed with disc and spinal conditions, organ problems and many other age-related diseases. Symptoms that can signal issues in senior dogs include hind end weakness, a wobbly gait, lameness, a reluctance to jump into the car, bedwetting, constipation, lethargy, decreased zest for life and more. Chiropractic care can make a huge difference to these older dogs. Even better, if introduced at a younger age before problems develop, chiropractic will help keep canines healthy as they enter their golden years.

What is chiropractic and how does it work?

Chiropractic has tremendous potential for animal health care. It offers alternative explanations for a variety of biomechanical, neurological and behavioral issues. The foundational principle of chiropractic is based on the intimate relationship of the spinal column and central nervous system and their correlation to the flow of life through all parts of the body. Secondary to this, it addresses how well the spine moves in relation to the arthritic and degenerative processes that occur in senior dogs.

Chiropractors adjust improperly-moving areas of the spine, called subluxations, that exhibit nerve interference. Once the nervous system is clear, the body can do its innate job of healing itself. Chiropractic care removes the interference between the brain, spinal cord and the body and gives the living being a chance to express life more fully. As an example, an adjustment can affect spinal nerve transmissions to organs and sphincters that relate to bowel movements, thereby reliving common problems such as constipation (see sidebar below).

How do I know if my dog needs chiropractic care?

If your dog has any of the following conditions or symptoms, whatever his age, chiropractic care may be necessary. Just be sure to have him seen by a veterinarian first to rule out any organic disease that may need additional treatments.

  • Abnormal posture – e.g. standing in a “tucked up” or spread-out position
  • Bladder incontinence or retention
  • Seizures
  • Unusual behavior such as fear or aggression
  • Whining or whimpering
  • Loss of hind limb function
  • Sensitivity to touch – uncomfortable when brushed or petted
  • Decreased athletic performance
  • Loss of coordination
  • Muscle atrophy
  • Trouble getting up or lying down
  • Swollen kidneys
  • Dragging feet
  • Digestive and bowel issues

Which dogs benefit from chiropractic care?

Chiropractic isn’t just for senior dogs who are already slowing down, although it can be especially effective for these older canines. It can also benefit dogs that compete in agility and other canine sports, as well as dogs that are injured, those that don’t respond to traditional modalities, and working and active canines of all ages. If regular chiropractic adjustments are started when the dog is still young, whether or not he’s a working or athletic canine, it can help keep him healthy, active and free of injury well into his golden years.

Canines respond incredibly well to chiropractic. I often see dogs regain a new spring in their step after being adjusted. Other problems associated with aging also frequently resolve after chiropractic care, including urinary incontinence, nervous licking and chewing, behavior issues such as aggression, problems with bowel movements, and more.

Finding an animal chiropractor

As a rule, the only individuals permitted to practice animal chiropractic are human chiropractors or veterinarians who have been certified by a recognized animal chiropractic school.

When you find a practitioner, make sure to ask them if they have been certified and have kept current with their animal chiropractic continuing education. Also ask them what percentage of their practice is dedicated to chiropractic care for animals. Chiropractic is an art, and you want to make sure the practitioner working on your dog has the fingertip feel to recognize spinal subluxations.

For more information, contact Options for Animals (optionsforanimals.com) or the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association (animalchiropractic.org).

You don’t need to wait until your dog develops age-related disease before introducing chiropractic into his healthcare regime. Proactively using chiropractic as your dog gets older, even if he’s still in good health, can help prevent or prolong the development of problems. If he’s already a senior with health and mobility problems, adding chiropractic to his wellness protocol can help address his issues and bring that spring back to his step.