Vav Simon
(Mhairi Simon)

DC AMC FRCC
Clinical Director

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Pet Subject: Chiropractic for All the Family


The Tail End

This ‘pet subject’ is more important than simply receiving referrals through unexpected channels. People end up better served and – as a result – more cooperative in caring for their own, their children’s and their animal’s health.

Chiropractors who treat animals learn a great deal more than usual about mammalian skeletons. Horses, dogs, cats, rabbits and guinea-pigs present a range of variations that wakes us up to some of the rarer issues, which can improve our human practice.

Because animals can’t tell you where it hurts, or why they can’t pull their leg through to walk normally, we have to form our own ideas about it. This encourages a sort of detective mentality that can help in assessing puzzling problems, even with humans who only have half as many legs!

Being animal-focussed allows me to spot the young dog who always yanks on his lead (problem referred: walker’s shoulder/neck; my advice: change hands regularly! and consider a harness), the retriever who swings round as he picks up a ball thrown down the beach (problem: back-end lameness; advice: throw the ball into the water so he can’t jam on the brakes so suddenly), the young rider who always mounts on the same side (problem: mysterious painful twisted pelvis; advice: use a mounting block), and so on.

There are lots of advantages for practitioners and patients for a multi-species caseload. And because statistically more than half our human patients have a dog or a horse, it’s important for all practitioners.


The Back Side

Bonny had been looking after a friend’s horse when I visited the stables to treat other horses. Hearing that I also treat dogs, cats and humans, she brought Ellie, her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, to see me, as she had hurt her leg. Because the hip joint had already twice developed problems, the vet predicted it would recur. The actual cause was Oakie, another family dog, jumping up on Ellie.

After treatment, Ellie was stronger and faster around the Agility course than before. She seemed more confident – “Not surprisingly, as Vav said she would have felt something like sciatica down her leg” Bonny said. She had been struggling with a back problem herself, and Ellie’s improvement made her think about seeing me for herself.

For years, Bonny had a weakness in her legs, especially in the cold, and had trouble getting herself out of bed – rising from a sitting position required her to lever herself up with her hands. It was serious: she couldn’t lift her baby and he was getting heavier day-by-day! The morning after treatment, she felt warm, strong and pain-free, and easily twisted and stretched in the bed with surprise and delight.

Oakie, the Springer Spaniel, wouldn’t sit properly. He was sitting like a puppy despite being old enough to have outgrown this. At Obedience classes, the trainer was pointing this out and warning Bonny that it would bring problems in competition. I treated several problems and then found he was 70% better at follow-up two weeks later.

Convinced that this mode of treatment has positive results, Bonny tried to persuade her other half Richard to come. His problems stem from an incident years before, but were now exacerbated by the repetitive lifting and twisting he did daily at work. The first treatment resolved most of the pain, and the follow-up one week later left him feeling taller and straighter again, and pain-free.

All Six Feet

Because a horse is ridden by a human, there are chiropractic issues arising from this relationship. For instance, a lop-sided horse can put the jockey’s pelvis out of alignment. Not only can this result in backache for the jockey (and more), it also reduces the attractiveness of riding whilst in pain.

But further, a jockey who is misaligned in her back and/or pelvis can eventually put a horse’s back or pelvis out of alignment. This also interferes with riding as the horse may be unable to walk, trot or jump properly, or may buck, rear or even bite with the pain. In these cases, it is important to examine the whole team: if you don’t, one will (usually) never come sound, and the other will continue with movement problems and pain.

Karen asked me to go and see her horse. It needed treatment for a stifle problem and the improvement led to her sister Sharon asking me to look at her horses. Next, Sharon brought her family dog for problems with his back end, and then both sisters booked in various children. One was Natasha, a youngster who was getting to grips with dressage training. Exercising her ponies, they had various painful falls, resulting in doubts and temptations to give up. I treated both team members and everything got better. In the meantime, the cat seemed to be limping with one hind leg (probably caught in a stable door closing, I guessed).

A system of consecutive appointments developed for six-month checkups. Later, a pair of hard-working husbands were also added in, so I could keep them going too, and then a granny… Sharon said “Everyone is convinced chiropractic helps in nipping problems in the bud as well as sorting out painful problems. We all go to Vav now.” And Natasha’s team with ponies are winning competitions against adults!

Many chiropractors treat married couples, mothers & babies and sometimes grandparents, aunts, cousins and other relations. This can shed light on inherited problems, body types and family habits. But a few chiropractors also treat the family pets too.

Sometimes, it is the treatment of an animal that leads to the owner asking for their own problems to be treated. Alternatively, the owner, who already has treatment, is inspired to bring their animal along. And other times it seems as though the whole family wants to join in!

Head First…

Rocky, a 2 ½ year-old Labrador developed problems with jumping – up onto the bed, the couch and the back of the car. He was alright walking and running, but he just couldn’t jump.

Debbie and Nick, the owners, bumped into Rocky’s breeder at a dog show. They chatted together about his inability to jump and the breeder suggested they try chiropractic. While Nick was away at work, Debbie brought Rocky to see me and immediately afterwards, he was a different dog. On the phone, she told Nick that she had walked Rocky a few yards back to the car, and he had jumped straight up onto the car seat!

Nick brought Rocky to the second appointment, so I could check and consolidate his improvement. Impressed with the results, Nick said half-jokingly “It’s a shame you don’t do this for humans”. Of course, I replied “Well, actually, I do”. I could see by the way Nick was sitting that there was something wrong mechanically with his back, and told him so.

Nick told me he had suffered with headaches and migraines for years: “I take a daily drug to try to ward them off, and if they get too bad, I have to inject myself with a special anti-migraine drug. It’s not much of a life.” Even so, he had to think about it before making an appointment: previously treatment from other chiropractors had either worked for a few days, or not at all. Eventually persuaded by Rocky’s recovery, Nick booked an appointment.

“Vav said my spine was like a train wreck – all the bones were in there, but not necessarily in the right place.” Adjusting pelvis, lower back, mid-back, neck and jaw, I left him feeling better after the session. Next day, there was no migraine. For the next month, Nick kept taking the daily tablets, and continued headache-free. For the following month, Nick stopped the tablets, and remained headache-free. “I am inclined to believe that Vav’s chiropractic made a huge difference to my daily life.”

However, an unexpected side-effect has appeared – Nick is putting on weight because he is eating same as before but he is not being sick from the pain. But I expect he’ll sort that out, though!