(link to the beginning of Article)For Chiropractors in California this applies directly to you. For all other states, after contacting every State Board in all 50 States for my article,"Is Animal Chiropractic Legal in your State,"(on this website), the laws vary. However, Chiropractic Boards and Veterinary Boards are very serious about Chiropractors following their respective applicable regulations.
Just so you know what can occur even when you are following the regulations to the letter, I was raked over the legal coals for months in 2018 merely because my name appeared in an article in the San Jose Mercury news in which I was described as an Animal Chiropractor. There is nothing like being greeted by your friendly neighborhood Postal person and signing for a certified, return receipt requested envelope from the Veterinary Medical Board or the Board of Chiropractic Examiners to add a heaping helping of dread to your daily routine. This judicial “Sword of Damocles,” can hang above you sometimes for months with interrogatories going back and forth as your future as a Chiropractor hangs in the balance. I can assure you that the process of resolving the "misunderstanding" is always very long, very stressful, and very expensive. Having been on the receiving end of these “Kafkaesque” inquisitions I am reminded of the days of ancient Sparta where, “troublesome helots, who aspired to push beyond the boundaries of their state enforced servitude were made examples of by summary execution!” So, consider yourself warned.
To drive the point home in states where it is illegal for chiropractors to treat animals or in one's that allows you to treat under supervision of a Veterinarian, let us mock-up a very real and familiar scenario where a patient of yours asks you to take a look at their pet, who has apparently been suffering from some sort of ongoing back pain despite the best efforts of their Veterinarian. Being a kind and caring chiropractor, you oblige the pet owner by examining and then adjusting their companion. You don’t even charge them. That’s just the kind of caring doctor you are. What could possibly go wrong? Let’s say that you did an amazing job and their pet makes a miraculous recovery. Later on, during a previously scheduled follow-up appointment with their Veterinarian your patient expresses how wonderful you are as a chiropractor and that their companion’s problem was resolved by your amazing skill and it only took one treatment. Now in a “perfect make-believe world” where professional jealousies don’t exist, that Vet would call you up and thank you for going out of your way to help their patient. Unfortunately, in the real world, he or she will call the Veterinary Board instead and file a formal complaint against you and your world will be changed from that moment forward, and not in a good way!
Just one more example. Some time back a chiropractic colleague called me up and wanted me to examine his canine companion, who had been struck by a car and as it was stated, "he's doing OK but was left with a nasty limp." I subsequently scheduled an appointment for his companion at one of the Veterinary clinics I work with. When my colleague arrived he brought with him a set of X-rays apparently taken by another chiropractor. When the Veterinarian and I viewed the films you could clearly see that the poor pup had been held up against a vertical Bucky for a series of "screwball" exposures with the hands of the chiropractor clearly visible in the films. If that weren't bad enough my colleague was very rude to the Vet, insisting that all his companion needed was a chiropractic adjustment. As awful as those X-rays were, you could clearly make out a luxation of the one of the femoral heads. The Vet was clearly taken aback by my colleagues unprofessional behavior towards her, and left the room disgusted with his antics. As was I! As I followed her back to her office she told me in no uncertain terms that if "your friend" (emphasis hers) doesn't take his dog to see a veterinary orthopedist immediately for reduction under anesthesia, she's was calling the Vet Board to report him and the idiot who took those non-diagnostic X-rays! I assured her that I would make it happen.
When I returned to my colleague I pretty much dressed him down for not only making me look bad with his rude and unprofessional behavior towards my veterinary colleague, but more importantly prolonging the suffering of his companion. I told him that he was, "this close" to getting a formal complaint filed with the Veterinary Board and that his license could be in jeopardy. At this point, humbled by the gravity of the situation and his stupid initial intransigence, he agreed to take him to get his dislocated hip resolved immediately.
I subsequently contacted the chiropractor who had taken the films and explained that taking those nearly un-readable radiographs could be construed as practicing veterinary medicine without a license and that he could lose his license if a citation were issued by the Veterinary Board! He was clearly shocked, stating" I was just trying to do a friend a favor!" Fortunately for my colleague that veterinarian was more concerned with helping the poor dog than seeking retribution for my colleague's arrogant unprofessional behavior. However, I can tell you I never heard the last of that incident as the story was retold more times than I care to remember.
Now, another reason to follow the rules, Veterinarians carry liability insurance to cover them for malpractice. If you are included in a malpractice case, your chiropractic liability insurance does not cover you treating animals. Additionally, if you are named in a lawsuit, it will be reported the Chiropractic Board and you are once again under investigation.
Finally and and I believe most importantly for the animal patient, ask yourself if you can answer "yes" to any of the following questions. What if a your animal patient comes in "pain posturing" (head held down, back arched up, tail tucked under). Can you tell the difference between pain caused by an acute T/L subluxation, or diskospondylitis, or the onset of pancreatitis, or an acute symptomatic clostridium infection causing pronounced abdominal pain? Can you tell the difference between neck spasms and pain caused by a cervical subluxations or a fractured odontoid or syringomyelia or a severe lower cervical sprain with instability? Can you discern the difference between a limp caused by a small but developing Osteosarcoma of the proximal femur and lameness caused by a cruciate ligament sprain or a subluxation of the hock? Can you distinguish between a dog that is unable to get up due to paraparesis of the hind end or a dog that is just profoundly weak and infirm due to illness? Can you discern the difference between the patient panting at night because they are in pain or because they have mitral valve insufficiency or perhaps canine cognitive dysfunction? Can you recognize Risus Sardonicus in a canine patient? Can you determine if a dog is non-weight-bearing on one leg because of root signature or because of a pathologic fracture through the femur or perhaps a luxated femoral head, or a medial luxating patella? Do you know what MSI is and how to successfully treat it non-surgically? Have you heard of MUE or GME in canines? How about diagnosing an abscess subjacent to the mid Thoracic spine caused by a migrating foxtail mimicking a spinal problem? (UC Davis had to figure this one out) If you as a Chiropractor can't say yes to these (and not even a Veterinarian can say yes to all of these based purely on presenting signs, symptoms, and a physical exam) then you had better think twice about treating "off the reservation." Why am I so adamant? Every one of the above conditions which clearly require Veterinary medical intervention have, one or in some cases many times, presented to me at a Veterinary clinic or hospital. Some were even referred to me after an initial exam by their Veterinarian! Fortunately working along side Veterinarians daily, these were ultimately sorted out to the benefit of myself, and more importantly the patient and their owner.