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ALTERNATIVE HEALTH

ANIMAL CHIROPRACTIC: A DIFFERENT VIEW OF HEALTH

By Bob Swandby

Sherry Gaber knew that she would be working with animals the day she graduated from chiropractic school, but it took her eighteen years to begin her animal chiropractic practice. On graduation day, she went to a pond on campus to contemplate her future. She found herself sitting next to a squirrel that seemed peculiar. She soon realized the squirrel was not moving; it could only turn its head. It was paralyzed and she wanted to help it, but she was afraid of being bitten. She sought out a friend to help. The squirrel let them put their hands on its neck and they adjusted the first vertebra, known as the Atlas vertebra. In a few seconds the squirrel scampered off.

Sherry’s father is a nationally known chiropractor, and she decided she could learn a great deal by practicing with hi and consulting on complicated cases. After eighteen years of intense work she decided to take a year off and began volunteering at a veterinary clinic. At the clinic, a technician’s dog was suffering from inflammatory bowel disease and was not responding to conventional treatment. Sherry felt she could help the dog and asked the technician for her consent. Since the dog was going downhill fast, she quickly agreed to let Sherry align the dog’s spine. In twenty-four hours the inflammation abated, the dog began eating again and gained weight over the next few weeks.

Sometime later at the clinic, a veterinarian’s Golden Retriever experienced serial seizures. She was an oldre dog and the veterinarian was very concerned. Again Sherry asked permission to do an adjustment on the dog. There were no further seizures for almost a year. Sherry had found a new variation on her old calling. She decided to attend the five-month certification course at the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association in Hinsdale, Illinois.

“Chiropractic work,” Sherry said, “allows the body to more fully express health by adjusting the body structure.” For example, she pointed out that dog collars put abnormal stresses on the spine, especially at the upper cervical area (where the head and the spine connect). The first cervical vertebra is critical because one set of nerves coming through it from the brain causes muscles all up and own the back to contract and another set causes these muscles to relax. Therefore, a quick jerk on a dog’s collar can cause the Atlas vertebra to misalign and lock. The resulting stress on the nerves can cause abnormal contraction of muscles all down the spine, affecting the position of the hips. Continued tightness of these muscles on one side of the body leads to less motion and requires the other side to work harder to make up for the lack of mobility on the right side. If the situation is not remedied, the dog or cat will be less coordinated and more prone to injury on the affected side. Lameness is a common consequence.

Other examples of conditions that chiropractic can help are arthritis and hip dysplasia, two common maladies in older dogs. Hip dysplasia is a structural abnormality which occurs when the hip socket is not well formed or the femur head, which fits into the socket, is shallow. Chiropractic adjustments cannot change the bony abnormality, but aligning the hips allows the body to handle the weakness better by placing less stress on these joints.

Arthritis is a similar condition, and is commonly caused by the spine being out of alignment. Bony bridges row between the joints o compensate for the instability. These growths put more stress on the one side of the affected joints, and also impinge on the nerve roots, causing the spine to lose mobility and flexibility. Nearby muscles then work harder to compensate for this lack of mobility in the spine and get stressed. Over time the condition can produce stiffness and lameness if not treated. Chiropractic adjustments of the spine help to restore the mobility and flexibility that allow the body’s natural healing processes to work more effectively.

Sherry believes that animal chiropractic is just one of several alternative healing tools which allow the body to have optimum health at each stage of life. She points out that often complementary health care tools include traditional veterinary care, massage therapy, acupuncture, homeopathy, sound nutrition and regular exercise.

Dr. Sherry Gaber practices animal chiropractic in Santa Fe and Chicago.

Note: This article first appeared in the Spring/Summer 1999 issue.

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