Animal Movement

Animal chiropractic care is a holistic approach to movement and health problems.

Author: John Faherty (Page 2 of 3)

Roll out the barrels, the barrels keep rolling along….

It is time for barrel racing in western North Carolina!! What an exciting, fast sport for the young and old. You ride your horse into the arena, make sharp turns around 3 barrels, then sprint out. It is timed, of course. In these parts, it is a great family and friend time as well.


Barrel racing has certain stress demands on a horse’s musculoskeletal system due to the nature of the sport. It involves balance with the rider, balance as the horse and its momentum take it turning quickly around a barrel and running full gallop at the end. When a horse and rider approach the first barrel, the top runners are always well balanced as they approach the barrel and cut it close. The hock and stifle joints are under significant pressure as the animal leads with the inside front leg and head/neck muscles, plants its hind legs, pivots, and pushes off in the loose arena sand/dirt and sprint to the next barrel or out of the arena. Coming into the first barrel, the rider is in total communication with her horse as the animal uses its front end to make the line around the barrel. The hind end is low, planting both legs to push off as it passes the midpoint of the barrel. The front legs, shoulders and neck muscles pull to continue around the arc of motion. The hind legs push off in a hopping type movement while the front legs and shoulders pull to race to the next barrel. The center of gravity of the rider in the saddle affects the smoothness and speed of the run. The horse and rider, as a unit, lean together to keep their momentum going in the same direction. Then running for the gold at the end. It is all over in the blink of an eye.

Stretching and warming up your horse if, of course, essential.

It is fun to watch and when I see horse run, I watch closely with the arc of movement around the barrel for explanations of a slow time, tipped barrel etc. If it is a horse I see regularly, then an adjustment is often used to correct any imbalances prior to the second run. Sometimes the rider might also need some care and stretching.

Look at the attached video of Brittany and Two Timing Lady. As they go into and around the barrels, there is a perspective of balance and pushing off. See if you can see any asymmetries, especially of the hind legs digging in and pushing off, the head veering off to one side, slipping of any of the feet or wide circles. At the events, cheering from friends and family make the energy pretty high. Both rider and horse are great athletes! I am pretty sure that I would be off the horse halfway through the first barrel.

Go see barrel racing close to you. Support your local National Barrel Racing association and other associations supporting equine events.

Note:…….Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

Brittany Whitted -2nd Go

Keep on truckin……

As we age, our joints and muscles continue to need motion to maintain their balance and motion. True for animals too. When your dog and cat (or other pets) begin to reach those golden years, daily exercise is even more important in some ways.

Joints begin to stiffen somewhat with arthritic type changes and that limits the amount and comfortableness of the joints in question. In dogs, it is very common to see that stiffness upon getting up first thing in the morning, after lying for the day, after too much vigorous activity. Like the rusty hinge we all know about, after we get things moving, they move easier and with less resistance.


The joints involved in motion are called facet joints (in the spine) and these are a type of hyaline joints (as with knee, shoulder, hip joints). This hyaline cartilage in its healthy state is smooth, almost slick, and has fluid producing capability that lubricates those joints. As joints age, the ability to self lubricate decreases and the hyaline cartilage changes its sliding ability (friction increases, elasticity of tissues decreases) and as that particular joint spacing narrows, the stiffness shows up. The bony areas rely on motion to maintain calcium uptake. The hyaline joints require movement to help with the lubrication aspect. The intervertebral disc need motion to get any sort of blood flow going to them.

So how much is too much? GOOD QUESTION!! Each dog is different and “too much” often relates to their history of previous injury, breed specific type of arthritic tendencies, and the kind of exercise. An animal with neck problems due to injury or overuse, is likely to have some discomfort if their exercise regiment involves jumping down off of high areas. The dachshund or beagle that has those disc tendencies (short legs, long back, short to the ground) it helps to have exercise that keeps the abdominals strong – working on exercise peanuts, swimming, digging with the head lower than the tail. Larger dogs like german shepherds or golden retrievers tend to have those low back, pelvis and hip imbalances in general so they can benefit from most exercise.


Lots of breeds have knee injuries and the stop/start fast movements can irritate those dogs.

An animal is also neurologically primed for specific actions. The golden retriever and black labs want to chase, grab, and retrieve. The pointer and other bird dogs thrive on stalking, and finding ground birds. The beagle puts its nose to the ground and and does not even hear their commands because their neurology takes over. All dogs have things that are satisfying to them and knowing your breed and allowing them to do what that breed is designed for is so important. We could talk about Jack Russells too but that would take a bit longer. Digging and jumping come to mind as well as lots of other things……and for these little guys, they are very smart and need challenging things to figure out.

So your pet can be the daily exercise you need. Be sure to find a safe place to allow them to run at times, retrieve things if it is not a problem with knees, smell, jump (within reason) and do those things that they do automatically. Their genetic tendencies are always there.

Check with your veterinarian to discuss your breed or mixes of your breed and their natural tendencies and try to provide some of what they love doing if left to themselves.

Enjoy daily walks, runs, and swims with your animals. They will help to keep you motivated…

Dog Walking


Actually, the initials are PST which stands for Pulsed Signal Therapy. This technology has been used extensively on humans and is now available for dogs, cats, and other small animals. It is a therapy that significantly helps joint pain, joint and muscle tenderness, painful motion, joint inflammation and helps improve mobility, sleep and general activities of daily living (paraphrased from pstvet brochure).

All I can say is the dogs that Dr. Tami Shearer sees, love this treatment and benefit from it greatly. Dr. Shearer specializes in treating and caring for animals in chronic pain. Shearer Pet Health Hospital in Sylva, NC gets referrals from around the area for her special treatment of these pets. PST is a non-invasive therapy that assists new bone and cartilage growth as well as the benefits listed above. It is an honor for me to work with Dr. Tami monthly at her clinic providing chiropractic care for the same population of animals.

So what is PST? The device emits pulsed signals (very comfortable to your pet) while the animal lies and rests. It is non-surgical and painless therapy that has no documented side effects. We use this treatment as an effective alternative to NSAIDs (anti-inflammatory drugs) and analgesics (pain relievers) and it bypasses possible side effects of these drugs.

I use a form of PST called PEMF (pulsed electromagnetic force) with patients at my human office and with horses and dogs as well. It is a slightly different device with the same benefits as PST. A bit easier to use with humans. My personal experience is amazing improvement with pain level and function of my knee in which I tore the ACL completely (chronic) and injured the medial meniscus (acute). [I then was able to exercise and strengthen the surrounding muscles because of reduction in pain level]. When used with horses the changes in range of motion and decreased pain in an area is dramatic.

Contact Dr. Shearer or Dr. Faherty today to have your questions answered, or leave a comment and ask about these state of the art therapies. Go to this site for more information about PST.

Who You Gonna Call?

I am frequently asked about “when do you know if chiropractic is indicated in my pet’s situation?” Asking your veterinarian first is, of course, indicated and I find that unless that veterinarian is versed in chiropractic and/or has been a patient of chiropractic offices, they often are still learning which conditions are responsive to chiropractic. I am still learning some of these myself and I have been a chiropractor for over 25 years.

Chiropractic care is very successful with mechanical problems. By that I mean, sprains, strains, disc problems, shoulder and elbow problems, non pathological limping or lameness, neck problems. In other words, we are specialists in analyzing joints and there movement and have techniques to help normalize these areas through balancing the musculoskeletal and nervous system associated with those areas. Chiropractic dovetails very nicely with physical therapy, stretching, accupunture, Tellington Touch, and other neuromuscular therapies. Used in conjunction they are synergistic.

Watching your animal walk and perhaps run as well (called gait analysis) is important. After that, evaluating the joint movement in the areas in question for abnormal motion, pain, restrictions, heat, noises etc. You as a pet owner are extremely helpful when we talk about your pet and what is going on. As with people, the history of the condition is so very important. So look at your dog, cat, horse, llama, donkey etc. and draw a visual line down the center and observe the animal walking away from you, then toward you, then observe from both sides. Does your pet move the same on both sides of the visual line? Is there head bobbing, tail swishing, shoulder dropping? These are some of the things to look for.

Often, the conditions that your veterinarian uses anti-inflammatories and pain meds for might also be helped with chiropractic care.

So, the next time you are out with your pet and you notice some asymmetries of movement, limping etc. give it a day or two and if it is still present call for an evaluation.

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