Adjusting Animals

By Rebecca Koch

If any movement within the chiropractic profession has been advanced using a thought leadership model, it’s animal adjusting. As with any movement fostered primarily by people with a passion, there’s no real, traditional top-down authority promoting it (though various state boards and agencies have written rules to define how it can and can’t be practiced by chiropractors and veterinarians). Yet, despite a presence that remains outside the mainstream of a side-stream profession, animal adjusting continues to inspire followers and new interest from within both the chiropractic and the veterinary professions, as well as among pet owners. Life University will soon enter the stream with a certification program that incorporates an intensive, high-quality, subluxation-centered, philosophically sound educational experience based on current best practices in animal adjusting.

For many DCs, the desire to care for animals is practically as innate as the intelligence expressing itself within them. For others, their interest was piqued by a desire to help a patient’s pet or a pet of their own when presented with a problem for which subluxation-based care seemed indicated. Ultimately, their interest in adjusting is driven by their desire to remove interference caused by subluxation and—after all—humans aren’t the only ones with spines that can benefit from such care.

Chiropractic is, at its very core, focused on honoring the innate design of life. It often addresses undoing the effects of many of the activities to which we humans subject ourselves, but to which we may not have had time, on an evolutionary scale, to adapt. We also have all the human foibles and distractions that often prevent us from being in tune and in the moment with our bodies. And as humans, we have anxiety about our symptoms, aches and pains. As a result of our societal attachment to artificial rhythms and processes, many of us are disconnected from even the basic, innate cues that our bodies were designed to give us—cues for hunger, thirst, rest and a host of others. Despite an estimated 10,000–20,000 year history of domestication and human-engineered manipulation, our companion animals are still much more closely connected to the natural signals of life.

That’s why many chiropractors are so in love with correcting subluxations in animals. The effects are much more pure and many times quite evident to even untrained observers. This is especially true for horses, wary and skittish by their very nature as prey animals, when they so visibly relax into the aftereffects of having been adjusted. And, there are just as many “miracle stories” of animals receiving subluxation correction and having a variety of problems disappear—everything from disqualifying gaits to lameness. 


Practical Realities

As defined by many state Chiropractic boards, there is no such practice as “animal Chiropractic,” which is understandable in many ways. The idea that chiropractors, trained to provide care for humans, are not trained to transfer their knowledge and skills to animals is similar to the way that medical doctors are not trained to employ their knowledge and skills on animals. At the same time, veterinarians are trained to care for animals, but receive no training in chiropractic care. In the state of Georgia (and each state is subject to its own practices recognizing and regulating the utilization of chiropractic-type care for animals), this has led to something of a partnership between chiropractors and veterinarians in which the veterinarian is the principal care provider, with the chiropractor working as a “veterinary assistant” under the auspices of the vet. 

What’s very clear is that neither profession offers chiropractic-type care for animals as part of their professional degree-granting programs. That’s where animal adjusting programs come into the picture. Legally, many states do not allow the use of the term “animal Chiropractic” or “veterinary Chiropractic,” so the term “animal adjusting” is used. Philosophically, at least for subluxation-based chiropractors, this term may present a problem of putting the cart before the horse since, from their viewpoint, a patient (animal or otherwise) would need to be examined chiropractically to assess whether or not any subluxations were present before determining whether to administer any adjustments. In other words, calling the practice of spinal subluxation care for animals “animal adjusting” presumes the need for an action without prior assessment. Be that as it may, animal adjusting is the legally mandated term this article will use in referencing chiropractic-based care for animals.


Becoming a Certified Animal Adjuster 

How does one become qualified to provide high-quality subluxation-based care for animals? Clearly, it’s no simple matter of a DC just poking around and palpating pets to try and decide if they feel subluxated and then letting fly with some analogous version of a human-based adjustment—although there’s no doubt there’s some of that going on. Neither is it a clear-cut matter of a veterinarian, well-trained in the anatomies of a variety of animals, but without any training in chiropractic-based care, doing the same thing. That’s where animal adjusting programs come in.

For the purpose of this article, we’re going to say that there are fundamentally two different approaches to preparing oneself to provide chiropractic-type care to animals. One type of approach involves 30 hours of training provided over the course of a three-day weekend. Some of these methods will admit anyone, regardless of prior training and, upon completion of the 30 hours, in total, pronounce them to be qualified to deliver spinal manipulation to animals. The other type of approach involves 220 hours of coursework, over the course of seven or eight modules, and requires that participants be at least senior students in a DC or DVM program and/or licensed DCs or DVMs. It is Life University’s position that the latter approach gives participants the best preparation for providing high-quality subluxation-based care to our animal companions. 

To that end, LIFE has partnered with Jay Komarek, D.C., arguably the premier animal adjuster in the United States, to offer the LIFE for Animals (LFA) certification program and create the Institute for Animal Adjusting. The Institute for Animal Adjusting will be comprised of graduates of Life University’s LIFE for Animals program. The graduates of this program will have met the requirements to sit for the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association (AVCA) certification exam. AVCA is the primary national credential for this field in North America. Certification was developed based upon input and oversight from both the chiropractic and veterinary professions. It develops standards of care in animal adjusting and awards credentials to individuals who meet established criteria and assessments in different modes of care. The Institute for Animal Adjusting (IAA) will list members within the IAA directory of premiere animal adjusters, and include physical location, menu of services and contact information. Members who successfully complete the LFA program and the AVCA certification exam will be entitled to designation as a Fellow of the Institute for Animal Adjusting (FIAA).


The Program

The LFA syllabus is available online by clicking on the link at www.LIFE.edu/LIFEforAnimals.com. The comprehensive coursework covers everything from safe animal handling, to philosophy, to anatomy, physiology and neurology, to adjusting techniques. While the final details are subject to change, plans also call for Sue Brown, D.V.M., to deliver a session that will cover Bio-Geometric Integration as it applies to animal adjusting. 

The first two modules of the LFA program will be held at the beautiful Indian Paintbrush Ranch near Colorado Springs, Colo. Here, adjoining thousands of acres of national forest, LFA participants will be immersed in three days of intensive classroom and hands-on experience with horses. The remainder of the modules will take place on the Life University campus in Marietta, Ga., and will consist of hands-on experience, primarily with horses and dogs. Although cats (and their claws) present special challenges for novice animal adjusters, some interaction with a few “cool cats” is planned. 

In addition, and of particular interest to the busy practitioner, LIFE for Animals is especially user-friendly. The program has been designed so that the modules can be accessed at any point. In other words, if you’re unable to attend Modules 1 and 2, you don’t have to wait for the whole seven-module cycle to end in order to start the program. You can plug into Module 3, then complete the program with Module 1 and 2 when the cycle begins again and be qualified to sit the AVCA exam.

This is a unique opportunity to become a charter member of an organization driven by passion and a desire for excellence and mastery of the chiropractic art as applied to animals. LFA is your chance to expand your profession and to care for the companions who give such unqualified devotion to their humans. 


For more information, please visit the LIFE for Animals website at www.LIFE.edu/LIFEforAnimals.com or email Postgraduate@LIFE.edu.