By Karen Foulke Larson
Sarah Wilkinson, Doctor of Chiropractic, always knew she wanted a career working with animals. She started working at an animal hospital in high school, and through the years as she moved her way up to head animal technician, learned the importance of preventive care. She saw how raw food diets, chiropractic care, and acupuncture helped the animals she cared for as well as her own pets. This influenced her decision to become certified as an animal chiropractor. She now treats cats and dogs and even horses.
What is Animal Chiropractic?
Chiropractic deals with the entire nervous system. Misaligned vertebrae (known as subluxations) can put pressure on spinal nerves. By adjusting the misaligned vertebrae, chiropractic care addresses the cause of the problem instead of just the symptoms.
Some of the conditions that might cause a pet owner to seek chiropractic care for their cat or dog include: gait problems; behavioral changes; performance problems; musculoskeletal problems; disc problems; joint problems; limping; age-related degeneration; neck, back, leg and/or tail pain; decreased range of motion; maintenance of joint and spinal health; and wellness and preventive care. One of the causes of subluxations can be some form of trauma, like getting hit by a car or a slip and fall. The birthing process can also cause subluxations.
An animal chiropractor works to restore function and mobility to the compromised vertebrae in an effort to re-establish neurologic transmissions and allow the body to perform at its potential. Animal chiropractors use their hands to identify the areas of restriction and then apply a precise thrust on the immobile anatomical structures to restore the normal motion of the vertebrae.
Animal chiropractic care is often sought to correct a problem, but it is also beneficial for wellness and preventive care. It does not replace traditional veterinary care and, as Wilkinson explained, is an integrative method that is used in conjunction with traditional veterinary care.
Finding a Chiropractor for Your Pet
Wilkinson’s field has grown over the last fifteen years, but there are many pet owners who are just finding out about this option. When she introduces herself to someone for the first time away from her clinic, she often hears the question, “Can I see your business card?” She has had many interesting conversations sitting next to strangers on airplanes who didn’t even realize animal chiropractors existed.
When looking for an animal chiropractor, start with the American Veterinarian Chiropractic Association (AVCA), the certifying agency for chiropractors and veterinarians who have undergone post-graduate animal chiropractic training. Some chiropractors might offer to take care of their patients’ pets, or may have graduated from a basic animal chiropractic program, but Wilkinson cautioned that finding a Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) or a Doctor of Veterinarian Medicine (D.V.M.) who is certified by the AVCA guarantees that they are thoroughly trained and have passed a written and clinical exam.
The Michigan Veterinary Medical Association requires a veterinarian’s referral and observation for chiropractic care. Wilkinson works at the Synergy Animal Hospital and Chiropractic in Saline (the same clinic where she started working during high school) with Linda Fung, D.V.M. It costs $85 to see both the veterinarian and the animal chiropractor. The cost for adjustments is $50. Some pet owners schedule regular visits, but the frequency of visits varies based on the individual pet’s needs.
Wilkinson said that once the primary issue improves, there are often other changes to the animal’s overall well-being, such as allergy relief or the pet tolerating medications better.
Popular with Pets (and Owners)
Kim Dermyre has known Wilkinson for at least fifteen years. Wilkinson first cared for Dermyre’s pets when she was a vet technician at Synergy. Dermyre’s Rhodesian Ridgeback, Geunther, was the first Dermyre pet to receive chiropractic care. Dermyre’s current pet, Greta, is a 68-pound Rhodesian Ridgeback. Dermyre thinks chiropractic care has helped extend Greta’s life. She is now 14.
Dermyre said, “The results were phenomenal. It gives them the ability to move more freely as they age with the onset of arthritis.”
When asked about Wilkinson, Dermyre added, “Her knowledge and compassion, along with a beautiful personality, are tops, and most of all, her love of animals makes her a special doctor as well as a person.”
If pet owners are questioning whether their pet will tolerate chiropractic care, Wilkinson can put their concerns at ease. One example is an 85-pound pit bull mix who originally saw Wilkinson for an injured back. The dog was nervous at the first visit when she was in pain, but as soon as Wilkinson corrected the problem, she quickly welcomed the visits to Wilkinson. Now she runs in the door of the clinic, finds Wilkinson, and sits in her lap.
Want to know more about animal chiropractic? Visit the American Veterinarian Chiropractic Association’s website: www.animalchiropractic.org.
Sarah Wilkinson, D.C., practices at Synergy Animal Hospital and Chiropractic located at 250 E. Michigan Avenue in Saline. For more information, visit www.synergyanimalhospital.net or call (734) 944-1640. She is also co-owner of Life's Journey Family Chiropractic, located in Ann Arbor, and is one of the few AVCA certified animal chiropractors in the state.