Vav Simon
(Mhairi Simon)

Clinical Director

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This is an extract from an article written by Vav Simon for (amongst others) the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association and the British Holistic Veterinary Medical Association. It relates how timely chiropractic adjustments prevented an act of euthanasia.


This is a technical term meaning partial mis-alignment of a bone with respect to those above and/or below it. It is much less serious than DISLOCATION, but is still enough to impair nerve function, leading movement, feeling or organ function problems.

For more Jargon-busting click here


The treatment is done in a comprehensive and continuous sweep down from atlas to pelvis, adjusting every subluxation found. The accuracy of palpation enables detection and immediate correction of subluxations without any other assessment techniques being required. The benefit of this is a rapid treatment session during the first call-out with minimum stress to the animal and minimum disruption to the owner.

In Uston’s case, I was able to treat all the misalignments successfully. Having corrected the lumbar and thoracic vertebrae, I was hopeful that his incontinence problem would resolve.


The improvement in Uston was immediate. Following the treatment he asked to go out into the garden and urinated correctly. He appeared bright and interested in life again. He was tracking up correctly. Movement through his hindquarters was stronger and more fluent. He came back to the house and greeted both his owner and myself with exuberance. He settled himself into his bed and shortly afterwards began a deep and contented sleep.

Over the next three months, there were a few minor setbacks. Treatment has continued and he now appears stabilised. He had five sessions, mostly to help a partial reduction in urinary flow. Healing is a process, not an event. In the context of his years of working life in the harness, this degree of improvement in so few sessions spread over a short time is very satisfactory. His life expectancy now gives him a quality retirement to look forward to; and his vet and his owner had been only days away from euthanasia!


Once in a while, a professional comes across a situation they recognise and understand where other professions haven’t. Although there are overlaps in training, the different professions aim to work in different ways. So it should be no surprise that this happens - but it when it does, we often are surprised.

It is my opinion, and the view of the McTimoney College of Chiropractic, that all working animals should be given chiropractic treatment before, during and after their career. This will help to counteract the effect of predominantly one-sided working, as well as occasional trauma. Given that they usually work on their owners’ left in a fixed harness, this will be particularly important to guide dogs. Regular treatment would reduce injuries, vets bills, and disruption and would lengthen the efficient working career.

Note: Under current law, vets are not allowed to manipulate animals unless they are specifically qualified to do so. However, chiropractors must receive the vet’s permission to treat any given animal.

Uston is an 11 year-old, male, German Shepherd, retired guide dog with a 2 year history of urinary incontinence. He had been initially treated with antibiotics by the vet as it was thought to be an infection. But the problem persisted and various investigations including X-rays showed no abnormalities. He was put on high doses of Propalyn to tighten the bladder sphincter and Rimadyl for arthritis, as he was also showing signs of hind-limb weakness.

He continued on these strong drugs and was re-homed to his present owner Mrs Jill Nicholson. Over the next few months the problem continued intermittently but after 11 months things worsened and Uston began to leak badly. It became clear that the bladder was leaking because Uston was receiving the message to urinate but the sphincter was not opening. Unfortunately he no longer responded to the medication and had to be catheterised on several occasions.

He went through more tests, but nothing abnormal was found. The vet felt the problem might be neurological and prescribed Diazapam to help relax the striated muscle in the bladder sphincter.


I first met Uston on 17/12/2000 when he was in obvious discomfort. He would wander round the garden making several attempts to urinate but was unable to do so. He was stiff and walked awkwardly with lameness in his hindquarters. He appeared depressed and miserable, and his owner was desperately concerned that euthanasia was now the only option.

On assessment, I found that Uston was walking on three tracks, his gait was stiff, stilted and crabbing to the right. His head was held low, immobile and tilted to the right. He was unlevel with mild lameness in his right hind leg and there was muscle atrophy over those hindquarters. On palpation, I found much tension in the trapezius muscle and pain within the right shoulder where I believed arthritis had begun. His atlas was misaligned caudally and dorsally on the right with rotation of cervical vertebrae also to the right. His right shoulder was dropped. This condition is typical for a guide dog who has worked in a fixed harness for many years.

Continuing down his back, I found significant subluxation in his thoracic vertebrae, T6 had gone to the right and T8 to the left. This meant that the twist caused a severe impingement to the nerves exiting from the spinal cord through the vertebral foramen. Misalignment in the lower thoracics and upper lumbar vertebrae was causing disruption to the nerve messages in the sympathetic trunk ganglia. As well as affecting local systems, this would upset the release of adrenaline and noradrenaline to the blood stream because of impingement interfering with feedback mechanisms to the adrenal medulla in the brain. Weakness in the hind limbs also stemmed from the same subluxations as nerve messages to the surrounding muscles were reduced.

Uston’s pelvis showed subluxation on two planes: tilt and rotation, which resulted in torsion. This was partially responsible for his tracking problems.

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