The Bigger Picture: Chiropractic Thinking in Veterinary Medicine
by David MacDonald
What’s interesting about veterinary medicine is that observations and recognition of disease patterns help make sense of unique patients, even when they present with complex and confusing diseases. Conversely, how a holistic veterinarian thinks about the nature of disease, even before action is taken to treat the patient, is a key part of holistic care.
Veterinary patients may be assessed in multiple ways, and a unique opportunity exists when chiropractic is used as a means of evaluation. Chiropractic considers the present and important neurologic nature of the body, which allows a veterinary practitioner to think differently about medicine and the nature of the problems seen in practice.
The nervous system is integrated into every tissue in the body, so it is always turned on—continuously sending and receiving nervous signals between key areas of the body. In essence, the brain and the spinal nerves (the central nervous system) orchestrate the functionality of the rest of the body (the peripheral nervous system). A chiropractic assessment is able to determine the integrity of these nervous pathways in a very rapid and precise manner. A thorough examination that includes chiropractic assessment allows complete care to be quickly attained in fewer steps.
As an example, a veterinarian may be presented with a limping dog. A thorough physical exam without chiropractic assessment will provide ample information to formulate an idea as to the source of the problem. Sometimes that provides an immediate answer, but sometimes further assessment may include sedation, X-rays, pain medications or other treatments. Even with these traditional assessments, the cause of the problem may still be unclear.
When using chiropractic for evaluation, however, more initial information is provided, and treatment recommendations can be made with greater confidence. By observing the dog in a resting position, while standing and while walking, a practitioner can evaluate muscle strength, weakness or fatigue. By assessing the dog’s cranial nerves, a practitioner can determine if a brain lesion may be resulting in incoordination. By assessing the spine via motion palpation, a practitioner can determine if the limping originates from a spinal vertebral nerve that has been compromised. By palpation of the extremities, it may be determined that pathology in the leg itself is the source of the problem.
Since “chiropractic thinking” of nerve origins and innervation to the muscles is grounded in neurologic reality, the practitioner can be confident that the association between their findings and the limping is not random, and treatment can then be individualized to the assessment, not the symptom. There is no trial and error. Of course, this neurologic knowledge is always weighed carefully in regard to the individual and their unique state of health. A decision to perform—or not to perform—a chiropractic adjustment is always based in the knowledge that this decision will help, not harm or worsen, the patient’s condition.
An additional aspect of chiropractic care is the amelioration of future problems. If a chiropractic problem is overlooked by conventional medicine, ripple effects may develop. The limping dog may not respond to conventional medication and the initial limp, left untreated, may result in an irregular gait and continual decline in mobility. A patient may even experience bigger problems, such as a torn cruciate ligament, as a consequence of the alteration in mobility. By resolving the early indications of a problem, chiropractic care becomes a major tool of preventive medicine.
Although the example used is a limping dog, chiropractic thinking may be used in all aspects of veterinary medicine, including hormonal, metabolic, digestive and behavioral conditions.
Veterinary medicine is a hands-on practice. Every examination offers an opportunity to assess the physicality of the patient by touch. Engagement with the patient is key; however, behind every action that is taken, a large degree of mental effort is made on the part of the holistic veterinarian. Chiropractic thinking is a good representation of the efforts that are made behind the scenes in holistic veterinary medicine every day. In taking this approach, greater success is achieved in the treatment of challenging problems.
Dr. David MacDonald is a veterinarian with Doylestown Veterinary Hospital & Holistic Pet Care, located at 380 N. Shady Retreat Rd. He is a certified veterinary acupuncturist (CVA) and a certified veterinary spinal manipulative therapist (CVSMT). To request an appointment, call 215-345-6000. For more information, visit DoylestownVeterinaryHospital.com. October 2019