An animal chiropractor manipulates specific areas of the body to alleviate pain and improve range of motion.
Animal chiropractors perform adjustments to an animal’s joints and vertebrae to reduce pain and improve performance. They begin their patient assessment by consulting with the owner to learn the detailed medical history of the animal. They also review any x-rays or prior written records provided by the animal’s regular veterinarian.
Once the case history has been established, the practitioner observes the animal both at rest and in motion to determine what adjustments may be necessary. They also palpate the spine and other areas that seem to be the source of pain or discomfort. After performing the adjustments, the chiropractor can advise the owner on therapeutic exercises that can help keep their animal healthy. Routine follow-up visits may be necessary as a part of a comprehensive treatment plan.
Animal chiropractors must be extremely detail oriented, keeping accurate records of the work performed on their patients as well as the results of their treatment. Since many practitioners keep their case files digitally, it is also important that aspiring animal chiropractors have good computer skills.
Animal chiropractors can operate out of a veterinary facility or offer a mobile clinic to visit clients in their own homes. It is possible to specialize in a number of areas such as working exclusively with horses, dogs, or other species of particular interest.
Education and Training
The American Veterinary Chiropractic Association (AVCA) is the most prominent certification group for animal chiropractors in North America. Candidates for certification must hold a Doctor of Chiropractic or Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree, pass a comprehensive written exam, and complete an intensive practical skills exam. Once achieved, the AVCA certification status is valid for a period of three years. To maintain their certification status the practitioner must complete at least 30 hours of approved continuing education credit hours during a three-year period.
A very strong knowledge of animal anatomy and physiology is necessary to be successful in this career path. Candidates should also have a high degree of manual dexterity, a solid knowledge of animal behavior, and familiarity with the safe handling techniques for all of the species that they plan to work with. There are several recommended post-graduate animal chiropractic programs listed on the AVCA website.
According to author Ellen Shenk’s Careers with Animals, the salary range for animal chiropractors can vary widely— from a low of $30,000 per year to a high of $200,000 per year. The specific level of earnings can depend on the number of clients a practitioner is able to attract, the hourly rate they can command, their years of experience in the field, and the geographic area in which they operate. Most animal chiropractors charge a “per session” fee that can range from $30 to $100.
Animal chiropractic is a growing career field that is rapidly gaining recognition with pet owners. It has been popular for quite some time in the equine industry, particularly with show and performance horses. According to a report by the AVCA, there have been more than 1100 professionals certified in this field since the certification program was officially established in 1989.
According to a New York Times blog, the enrollment at a prominent animal chiropractic school has increased significantly, by a solid 50 percent, from 2011 to 2013. This is an extremely positive sign of growth for those interested in pursuing a career in this specialty field. Those with significant experience, certification, and education will continue to enjoy the best job prospects in this field.