Hermantown—Humans aren’t the only creatures who suffer from aches and pains. So do dogs. Often, dogs in pain are treated with medication, some of which can be harmful to a dog’s kidneys or liver with long-term use. For some dogs, there is a holistic alternative to medication: Chiropractic treatment.
Dr. Claudia Cottrell is an animal chiropractor based in Duluth who serves the North Shore and Iron Range. Her practice includes dogs, horses and cats. Recently, she had her first rabbit. Dr. Cottrell said she treats dogs for a variety of ailments.
“In dogs, I often treat a weak back end due to a spinal issue called DM or degenerative myelopathy, which is like ALS in humans,” she said. “It is terminal in dogs over a period of one to three years, but chiropractic care can help with their mobility and slow down the degenerative process.”
DM is a genetic mutation that generally affects older dogs, destroying their neurons. It is typically seen in large breeds such as German shepherds. Cottrell shows the owners exercises for the dogs to keep the neurons firing and slow the process of muscle atrophy. When dogs lose mobility in their hind end, they can use a special wheelchair for mobility.
Another common ailment in large dogs is hip dysplasia, which is a structural disorder that affects the hip ball and socket. Chiropractic care can help manage dysplasia unless the hip joint is completely destroyed.
Laryngeal paralysis usually affects older dogs and can be noted when the dog develops a raspy bark and begins panting. The disorder starts in the lower back and can affect their ability to exercise. It can be treated with a surgical procedure, but Cottrell says that after surgery the dogs cannot be in water. Chiropractic care is an alternative to surgery for water-loving dogs.
Large breed dogs such as Doberman pinschers can be afflicted with wobbler disease. Symptoms include a loss of balance, a rigid neck and poor control of back legs. It is a disease of the cervical spine where slipped discs or bony malformation cause compression of the spinal cord. Chiropractic treatment, generally an adjustment of the lower neck, can help with the associated issues. Cottrell said.
Dogs can also need chiropractor care just for being dogs. They can injure themselves slipping on ice or hardwood floors. Households with multiple dogs may have canine injuries from rough-housing. Often, these injuries aren’t serious and can be treated with spinal adjustments. Some dogs, like some people, may need ongoing maintenance treatments to deal with pain.
How does someone become an animal chiropractor? Cottrell says you must be a licensed chiropractor or veterinarian in order to attend an animal chiropractic school. She had a 20-year practice as a licensed chiropractor before learning to treat animals five years ago.
Cottrell has an office in Duluth and at her home in Hermantown. She travels regularly to the Iron Range and Grand Marais, as well as far south as Askov. She used to work with a veterinarian who practiced acupuncture, but has since moved to Wisconsin. However, the vet returns to see animals in Duluth on a monthly basis. Cottrell gives referrals for animal massage.
“There’s a whole new world of pet care,” Cottrell says. “People are looking for holistic cures, not just medicines.”—Shawn Perich