A practice of a different color
Few people understand the daily grind of providing chiropractic care to animals. Try spending a day in the shoes of a veterinary chiropractitioner.
By Wm L. Inman, DVM, CVCP
A chiropractor (Dr. X) received a request from a client who has a horse with a particular problem.
She got his name and number from a friend who works at a stable where Dr. X has performed services before. He arranges to see the client and the horse at the stable the following day.
Dr. X is a certified veterinary chiropractitioner (VC), trained in animal adjusting. He will contact the client’s veterinarian to establish or reestablish a “veterinary affiliation” (which is required by state boards), to do this work and get paid for it.
Every state in some manner allows chiropractors to do this work. However, in each state, the term “veterinary affiliation,” “direct supervision,” and other aspects of this professional relationship have different definitions and interpretations.
The chiropractor contacts the veterinarian affiliated with a specific case. When he has completed his care, the chiropractor will fax his findings and results to the veterinarian’s office to be included in the animal’s medical record.
The professional relationship between the VC and the veterinarian may be different for each state, but such an affiliation allows the VC to deliver professional therapy without “practicing veterinary medicine without a license.”
The following day, Dr. X heads for the stable, along with his “dual tool” (a spinal adjusting tool that is used for both small and large animals), an electric device designed to provide myofascial release called a “vetrostim,” and a frequency-specific low-level laser device (which is not required but comes in handy for a number of conditions).
Dr. X drives out to the equine facility and, as is standard in the industry, will charge for his travel time, both in mileage and also in time to provide his services on location. This is termed a “farm call” in the veterinary field and can be anywhere from $100 to $120 on top of what is done in the field. He will also be paid at the time services are rendered.
Upon arrival at the stable, Dr. X finds the owner. At this point, he should know where the horses are, what their problems are, and what the owner’s considerations are, before having the services performed. Dr. X notes the “owner’s complaint” and may wish to see the animal move if the complaint is gait-related.
Exam and adjustment
Dr. X then starts to determine the pattern of vertebral subluxation complexes shown in the axial spine of the horse. He uses a spinal accelerometer to emit a forceful pulse that travels over a minute amount of distance that cannot harm the animal, but can elicit pathological reflexes that are unique to the quadruped.
Quadrupeds, unlike human beings, lack the recurrent meningeal nerve. This means they have a whole series of pathological reflexes that are facilitated by neurological interference in the spinal cord (also known as vertebral subluxation complex).
Dr. X has the ability to quickly, safely, and effectively go to the animal and find virtually every subluxation that the horse has through eliciting these gross pathological reflexes. This is not muscle testing, but rather reflexes that can be grossly seen on the horse by both the VC and the client. This takes guesswork and subjectivity out of animal evaluation.
Because of that unique neurological response, this technique has become popular for animal adjustment. Manual adjusting techniques are difficult, dangerous, sometimes inaccurate, and can be hazardous for the animal and the VC. This is an advantage to using an adjusting instrument. Animals enjoy being adjusted and subsequent adjustments are generally met positively by the animal.
The initial evaluation pass challenges each vertebral segment to determine whether a vertebral subluxation complex is present. This reveals a pattern that is patho- neumonic for the kind of problem the owner is describing. The VC then repeats identical passes a second and third time. During those passes, the subluxation patterns, depicted by pathological reflexes, are either ablated, changed, or moved to another location on the spine.
The VC is trying to elicit a change or ablation of the reading patterns. Neurologically, the body is only able to flip the switch from “off” to “on.” A subluxation cannot be created with this technique.
After the adjustment is completed, myofascial release may be added to immediately rehabilitate muscles that have been spasming from vertebral subluxation complex. In this way, the VC can restore the muscle to its strength and range of motion and give the horse an immediate benefit.
The average horse is adjusted in less than five minutes. The owner also points out some lacerations on the leg of the horse, which Dr. X treats effectively with frequency- specific low-level laser therapy. That therapy lasts about three minutes.
Dr. X sees the client’s other two horses in a similar fashion. Upon completion, he discusses his evaluation and subsequent adjusting schedules. He will want to see these horses in seven days for another adjustment to evaluate each animal’s response.
Watching this adjustment are three other horse owners. They approach Dr. X requesting that their animals be evaluated and treated. Now he has 10 animals that he has to return to in seven days and adjust again.
This technique is usually more than 90 percent successful. Animals in general are easier to adjust than human beings.
The VC collects the fees for treating the 10 animals. A sliding scale is employed for more animals. The stable can offer up five, 10, 15, 20, or 25 horses in one visit and the cost per animal goes down significantly with larger numbers.
Dr. X returns to his practice and deposits his income in a separate bank account from his regular practice. He will be responsible for paying taxes on that income as a self- employed practitioner.
Seven days later, Dr. X returns to the equine facility to adjust the 10 horses for the second time. A routine equine case will take between five and six adjustments, delivered on day one, day seven, day 21, day 42, and day 70.
When he gets to the stable, all 10 horses are lined up and ready to go. He’s going to repeat the same type of adjustment and evaluation that he used before. It will probably take approximately 10 minutes to adjust each of these 10 animals. He’s going to be paid exactly the same as he was before for each animal, and he records any objective findings as well as subjective impressions the client may have as the result of this care.
As he tries to leave, he is confronted by four other horse owners who collectively have another 10 animals to be evaluated. This will be their first adjustment and will need to be repeated in seven days.
Normally, the VC would have waited for two weeks to adjust the animals for a third time on day 21, but now he has to go back in seven days to adjust these new 10 animals. As he completes those adjustments, another five to 10 horses show up.
Dr. X is going to have to visit that specific stable weekly until he gets all the horses in that stable handled and on maintenance care, which may be one adjustment every three or four months.
It is optimal to have the stables be relatively large — 60 to 100 horses on location — and to be relatively close to the VC’s practice. The VC will set aside an afternoon midweek, and perhaps Saturday or Sunday, to do this work in a number of different locations.
Three large stables can generate a significant income for the VC. This type of care significantly benefits his veterinary affiliate, not to mention there are no insurance forms or third- party payments in animal adjusting.
Training for this type of care is provided by seminars from the International Association of Veterinary Chiropractitioners (IAVC). Also, there are other organizations offering classic or diversified chiropractic techniques on animals: The American Veterinary Chiropractic Association (AVCA) and the International Association of Veterinary Chiropractitioners (IAVCP).
In most states, the terms “animal chiropractic” or “veterinary chiropractic” are not allowed by the state organizations that have defined “chiropractic” as healing modalities applied to the human, or the human spine. Instead, the term “veterinary chiropractitioner” is allowed, copyrighted, and trademarked by the IAVCP.
Wm. L. Inman, DVM, CVCP, is the author and originator of the VOM Technology and is president and CEO of the IAVCP and the AAAA. He has trained almost 8,000 graduate doctors in the field of animal adjusting. He delivers two-, three-, and four- day seminars in animal adjusting and veterinary low-level laser therapy. He can be reached at 888-935-4866.