Canine Athletics

Canine Athletics


Animal Chiropractic & The Canine Athlete



The chiropractor’s focus is on the dog’s skeletal well-being and its relationship with the nervous system.

The physical demands of the canine athlete can cause spinal segments to get out of alignment or become blocked or restricted in their movement. There are called SUBLUXATIONS. Peripheral joints (those in the front and hind limbs) can also become fixated. Subluxations don’t always cause pain. The body is constantly trying to avoid pain and does so by compensating in various ways. Specifically, other spinal segments move more or differently than they’re designed. Your dog becomes pain free but the way he/she functions becomes altered. From a performance perspective it may not be critical for the family pet, although family pets deserve proper spinal and joint mechanics too, but for the canine athlete, performance becomes noticeably affected.

For no apparent reason, Fido pops out of the weaves, turns differently off the box, isn’t jumping as far off the dock, or as high for the Frisbee or is reluctant to go through that bog after a duck. At first you think its training. “If I can just get some more time to work on that issue...” you reason. Then you realize he/she seems stiff after an event, takes longer to get going out of his/her crate or seems to tire quickly during their swim.

Subluxations will also have an effect on a dog’s nervous system. Like their owners, most of a dog’s nerves exit through the spine. When subluxations occur, nerves can get pinched or irritated, not only causing pain, but affecting the strength of the area and even causing dysfunction in a corresponding organ system. Because the nervous system is the main power behind the healing system in the body, subluxations can also slow down the body’s ability to heal or adapt properly. Correcting canine subluxations, not only relieves symptoms, but turns up the power. This can make your dog more powerful in many ways.

Chiropractors look for and correct subluxations in order to help the body return to its normal position and function. This allows optimum physical performance.

There are many different types of chiropractic care:

Symptom Relief

The dog is adjusted once or twice, or even a few times, until he/she seems to be pain free. Over time the problem recurs periodically. The reason? While the symptoms were alleviated, the problem itself was not really corrected. Dogs have a strong primal urge to suppress their pain, and all living creatures have the ability to compensate to pain. If something is being pinched on the left, we lean to the right. Eventually this becomes the normal.

Problem Correction


  Once the symptoms and/or pain syndromes are under control, periodic care

  is required to maintain the correction while the body has time to fully adapt

  or heal to the new structural and functional situation. This gives the dog a

  solid foundation for the future.



Maintenance Care

Once the problem is finally stable, periodic adjustments are usually recommended to control the minor stresses that build up over time. Little collisions with siblings, a stumble over an obstacle, or some chronic changes, all have an effect over time and need a “tune-up” once in a while.

Performance Enhancement

The canine athlete needs perfect spinal and joint mechanics to give optimum performance. The more efficiently the dog’s entire body works, the better the performance will be. To ensure that their dog is at his/her best, some owners may choose to have their dog adjusted the day or two before an event, and some immediately before the event starts. A few have their dogs adjusted just before every run, and while for most this might be over-doing it, for some it may be beneficial.


As always, should an injury occur that might be affecting your dog’s spinal or joint structures, see your animal chiropractor. Serious injury should ALWAYS be checked first by your veterinarian.

The practice of Animal Chiropractic can compliment your canine athlete in many ways. If you have any questions about your canine athlete please contact Dr. McCarthy at