Pet parents are turning to chiropractic care to be sure their pets are living their best lives
NORTH ROYALTON, Ohio – While it won’t replace traditional medicine, some people find that chiropractic care can have a huge benefit animals as well as humans.
Dr. Sara Jerman has loved animals since she was a small child, so it seemed like a natural career choice to become a certified vet tech. But she soon she discovered a higher calling.
“Chiropractic is my second career. When I was going through the vet tech program, I found I loved learning about the bones and the nervous system, so chiropractic became an option,” she explained. “I worked as a vet tech during the day and went back to school at night to get my bachelor’s and then, from there got my doctorate in human chiropractic.”
While in chiropractic school Jerman got regular adjustments, which made her wonder about her cat — now 18 years old — who suffered from an old leg injury. Jerman wondered if the kitty would benefit from chiropractic treatments as well.
“When I saw how much she benefitted from it, a lightbulb went off,” Jerman said. “I could combine my love of animals with my chiropractic career and started to search for where I could get a certification.”
Animal chiropractic emerged as a field in the late 1980s. To date, approximately 1,400 animal chiropractors have been certified in the United States since 1989. To be certified, a doctor must first be a Doctor of Chiropractic or a licensed veterinarian.
Once certified, Jerman split her practice between her human and her animal patients. Now, nine years later, Jerman has a thriving career as an animal chiropractor.
“Any animal can be adjusted — think cattle, sheep, goats, you name it — but I generally stick to horses, dogs and cats,” she said with a laugh.
For larger animals, Jerman travels to them. Smaller pets are treated at the Natural Pet Enrichment Center in North Royalton.
Jerman’s patients seek her out
Most of her patients’ owners find her via Google search, though some have been referred by their veterinarian.
While human chiropractic patients are able to tell their doctors where it hurts, animals give off physical signals that Jerman must sus out.
“Sometimes the pet parent tells me what they are doing differently – how they are moving and functioning. Sometimes it is as obvious as a limp. Sometimes they will show gait changes or posture changes. It is different in every case,” she said.
Before working on an animal, Jerman takes a good look at the patient’s posture, gait and how they are sitting to see if, or where, issues may be. She then checks their full spine and extremities.
Joint restrictions can arise from any situation, she said. A pet can be hurt playing. A competition dog can be injured making repetitive motions. An animal can be hurt during the birthing process, surgery like dental extractions or by compensating while another limb heals. Pets even suffer from arthritis.
“While chiropractic can’t heal arthritis, it can help take stress off the arthritic areas – helping an animal to function and move as best as they possibly can,” she explained.
Another challenge she faces with her four-legged patients is that, unlike humans, whose bodies make sounds during an adjustment, animal bodies rarely do. Successful adjustments are based on Jerman’s ability to feel a joint or vertebrae slip into place.
“I allow them to control the session,” she said. “They tell me how much they want you to do or not do, so I have to be in tune with their reactions to my touch as well.”
Jerman is quick to say her services should not replace veterinary care, but is a “secondary option for owners.”
She says an animal can be checked at any age – from the puppy to the geriatric — and that many pet owners book sessions as part of an animal wellness regimen.
Kaitlyn McCoy gets her dog, Abigail, adjusted on a regular ba owner, the choice to have her dog adjusted on a regular basis to be “proactive.”
“We have come to Dr. Jerman since Abigail was a puppy,” McCoy said. “She is very active. She loves to roughhouse play; she loves walking and swimming; I just want to be certain she is as healthy as she can be so she lives her best life. I can definitely see the difference in how she moves after she is adjusted. And she always lets us know when she wants or needs to be adjusted. We take our cues from her.”
Chiropractic can help with an animal’s flexibility, range of motion, balance, weight distribution, efficiency of the nervous system, even digestion.