Veterinary Back Work

Back Pain & Neck Pain

Chiropractic Manipulation
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Chiropractic (deriv.)

Chiropractic manipulation for horses, ponies, dogs, cats and other animals

Extreme pain is not uncommon with back problems

Chiropractic treatment

Back pain can be extreme. We describe here the most common conditions giving rise to back pain or neck pain.

Spinal Misalignment:

The most common back problem we see is general spinal misaligment, in horses, dogs, cats, goats, donkeys and other animals. It includes pelvic misalignment ('pelvis out'), which results from lumbosacral problems (see below).

These misalignments can lead to chronic back pain, incorrect posture, incorrect gait and movement and knock-on ill effects around the musculo-skeletal system. In all animals, this poses a welfare problem and reduced well being. In a working animal, it also imposes a limitation on performance capability. Horse back pain and dog back pain are our most common call.

Tell-tale signs are failure to track up, unsymmetrical stance, failure to sit symmetrically (dog and cat) and apprehension about the rear end. In some cases, the scoliosis (spinal bending) is evident and obvious.

Chiropractic care is required.

Pelvic Misalignment:

Horses, ponies, dogs, cats and other species very often present with 'pelvic misalignment' (commonly referred to as 'pelvis out'). At the AVMC, we believe this is the result of misalignment at the lumbo-sacral junction. When the pelvis is out of line in this way, the animal does not 'track up' and puts uneven strain on one or other front limb. In horses, an unsymmetry is usually observed in their work.

This misalignment is generally rapidly rectified by judicious chiropractic manipulation. In cases which repeatedly suffer the same problem, we have a non-traumatic, non-toxic injection technique which appears to restore more normal stability.

Prolapsed Disc:

Possibly the most painful condition of the spine in dogs is a prolapsed intervertebral disc [PID, IVDD], in which anything from a screaming dog (arching its back and unwilling to move) to a paralysed dog is possible.

Acupuncture and LASER therapy usually prove very effective in such problems. We have never had to refer a patient for surgery, so long as the patient is presented soon enough. We also use homeopathic medicine, to prevent swelling and oedema of the spinal cord. Again, early intervention of this type prevents the need for steroid (cortisone/corticosteroid) treatment.

Sometimes spinal manipulation (very gentle veterinary chiropractic treatment) is also indicated. Some vets state that this must not be done but we have never witnessed a problem arising from performing necessary realignment, to enhance healing capability. Not doing it leaves the misalignment as an obstacle to recovery. Fear of gentle and apt vet chiropractic manipulation arises from ignorance of the process involved.

Neck Problems:

Sometimes we are presented with a dog or horse in acute neck pain. This can be very severe and will often cause a dog to scream on certain movements. The head is held and moved abnormally and your dog will often follow your movement with his eyes, rather than neck and head movement. Manipulation, traction, LASER therapy, acupuncture and homeopathy are required for this, administered in a co-ordinated and integrated regime.

Many patients show some misalignment of the first cervical vertebra (atlas) without obvious pain.

Shoulder lameness:

It is not unusual for an apparent shoulder problem to arise from a problem in the lower neck. Sometimes the lameness can switch from left to right and back again. Such problems are usually amenable to chiropractic treatment.


In some dogs, a condition called spondylosis may occur. This is sometimes an incidental finding, when X-Ray pictures are taken for another issue. In some cases, it causes severe back pain and disability. It is characterised by abnormal growth of bone at the intervertebral joints, causing pain and impinging on the nerves.

Acupuncture, homeopathy and chiropractic manipulation are usually effective in reducing the suffering and increasing mobility.

Lumbo-Sacral Disease:

This is an often very painful and disabling condition affecting mainly the joint between the last lumbar vertebra and the sacrum. Happily, a combined approach of Acupuncture, Homeopathy and Chiropractic Manipulation usually brings about good relief of back pain and restoration of a near-normal lifestyle in the majority of cases.

Kissing Spines:

'Kissing Spines' is a condition recently formally described. Chiropractic manipulation, Acupuncture and LASER may provide sufficient relief for the horse to lead a normal life.


There is a widespread problem with saddling of horses and it cannot be overstated how important a comfortable saddle is to the ridden horse, in terms of comfort, well-being, health and longevity. Incorrect saddling leads not only to horse back pain but also to incorrect posture, gait and action, with risk of secondary pathology.

Chiropractic manipulation will bring only temporary improvements, unless the saddling problems are corrected.


Foot balance issues are common in horses with back problems. Correct foot balance is essential to health and longevity. If foot balance is not corrected, chiropractic manipulation will be wasted and longevity seriously threatened.

The recent move towards 'barefoot' riding avoids this issue. However, some horses may not be able to change completely to 'barefoot'.

See also:
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Alternative Veterinary Medicine Centre
Chinham House
Stanford in the Vale
Oxon SN7 8NQ

01367 710324
(Fax 01367 718243)

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