Dr. David MacDonald, DVM, CVA, CVSMT, has got your back. And your pet’s, incidentally.
As a veterinary chiropractor at Doylestown Veterinary Hospital & Holistic Pet Care, Dr. MacDonald has a knack for musculoskeletal treatments that keep dogs and cats moving throughout life and into their senior years while warding off severe health conditions and illnesses along the way.
“In essence, when we’re working with chiropractic with animals, we’re working with their nervous system,” Dr. MacDonald says.
“Everything in the body has a nerve influence,” he explains. “When we’re using chiropractic, we’re influencing the nervous system and improving how it works. And almost every part of the body has either a positive or minus as far as how you’re going to influence things.”
The trick, he says, is optimizing that positive component of the nervous system.
“Most of the time we’re helping with muscles, muscle tone, muscle strength, and how the body moves,” he says. “Often, we’ll use chiropractic with animals who have physical, musculoskeletal injuries or are just experiencing normal wear and tear over time. Frequently we’ll use it with animals who have an athletic lifestyle, such as working dogs or hunting dogs – things of that nature where they’re physically doing things every day.”
It is also true, however, he notes, that all other body functions – from digestion to heart function to immune system response, and more – are influenced by nerve control, as well. For this reason, Doylestown Veterinary Hospital will frequently recommend chiropractic treatment for animals who have chronic digestive problems or immune system functionality issues.
“There are ways we can help those conditions, too,” he says.
The Truth About Cats and Dogs (and Chiropractic Medicine)
Dogs and cats are both prime candidates for chiropractic treatment.
One’s just a slightly more agreeable patient than the other.
“When I learned chiropractic, I was taught on large animals, too,” Dr. MacDonald recalls. “Horses, cows. Any mammal with a spine can benefit from chiropractic.”
As a veterinary chiropractor, however, he tends to treat more dogs than cats.
“Cats are not always as tolerant of having that hands-on kind of work,” he explains. “During a typical dog chiropractic appointment, I’ll do maybe 6, 7, 8 adjustments in different engagements of different areas with the spine. With a cat, I may do 2. They just don’t have the same capacity to feel comfortable with it. It’s the same way that your cat at home will tolerate you petting it for five minutes before they say, ‘OK, that’s enough,’ and run away.”
Still, a few adjustments here and there, over time, can be incredibly helpful for all animals. The important thing is to seek chiropractic counsel from a trained veterinarian before red flags begin to pop up with your pet.
“When I talk to pet owners about chiropractic, I tell them that you shouldn’t necessarily wait until there’s a major crisis or a major problem where your dog or cat is really in trouble,” Dr. MacDonald says.
Sometimes, the best use of chiropractic is as a preventative treatment.
“We all know that while going through the daily activities of life – just the physical nature of the things we do – our bodies get out of balance. Occasionally, that’s obvious if you’re used to doing a lot of physical activity or playing sports. Things just get out of their normal position. And sometimes we just say, ‘Oh, nothing is going on – I’m fine.’”
Eventually, however, those little things begin to add up. Before you know it, drastic changes are happening that you hadn’t counted on.
“One day, you bend over to take out the trash and you say, ‘Oh my gosh, I put my back out!’”
It’s the same with our pets, says Dr. MacDonald says – only these occurrences all too often fly under the radar.
“There are so many things our dogs and cats experience in their physical lives, but they can’t tell us,” Dr. MacDonald says. “So, it’s often in our best interests to do them a favor and help them with their spine and their nervous system before they begin to tell us, ‘Hey, I can barely walk.’”
For this reason, regular visits to the veterinary chiropractor can be a phenomenal help when added to the list of routine appointments such as vaccinations, blood tests, and more.
“Chiropractic is certainly high on the list of the things that we can do as veterinarians to make sure things stay in place where they should be.”
Dr. MacDonald says that he didn’t realize just how important chiropractic was until he started seeing the results in real-time.
“Now, I put it on the same level as anything else we do as a part of medicine,” he says.
“When you look at a dog and you see them in all of their physical ways, there’s still a part that’s almost invisible. But I know it’s there,” he continues. “When I start working with the spine, that’s my point of engagement. It becomes a valuable tool in the same way that we do anything else, whether it’s medication or food or supplements, or anything that we do preventatively. It’s a means of working that you don’t see physically. You see it in how it manifests and how the animal can do the things they want to do. The result is that you see a dog who’s happy and who can lead an active lifestyle, even into their older years.”
Dr. MacDonald often needs to stop and check himself when greeting certain patients.
“When I look at their medical records, I’ll see how old they are and I look at them and say, ‘You don’t look that old at all,’” he laughs. “It’s because their physical body is doing so well. We’re helping them do better to the point where it’s like, ‘You may be 17, but you’re still doing great!’ And that’s the thing that makes me happy.”