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Pet Owners Turn to Chiropractors to Keep Their Dogs and Cats in Line

MANHATTAN — Owners of aging cats, dogs and even horses are turning to chiropractors to help their furry friends for ailments ranging from arthritis to incontinence.

The holistic treatment, which effects pets nervous systems by re-aligning the bones along their necks and spine, can even act as a lifesaver for elderly pets, according to Manhattan vet and chiropractor Dr. Jill Elliot.

"It's very helpful, even in a serious illness, because it makes the animal feel better," Elliot said. "It makes things function better."

Chiropractic care is one of the many tools being used across the city as pet owners and veterinarians hop the bandwagon of homeopathic care, which includes everything from aromatherapy to acupuncture.

The $65 chiropractic treatment offered at the Upper East Side's Yorkville Animal Hospital and the Heart of Chelsea Animal Hospital lasts anywhere from five to 20 minutes. At an average of over $6 a minute, the price can seem hefty —  but the benefits can be seen in a little as a week, Elliot said.

Since Elliot became certified to do chiropractic work a few years ago, she says that she's helped hundreds of feline friends get back on their feet after suffering one of their most underdiagnosed problems — osteoarthritis.

"Cats respond quickly, and tremendously,"  she said about her returning elderly patients, ranging from 10 to 20-years-old. "But you do this, and they start being kittens again."

Elliot is one of the city's few licensed veterinarians trained to do veterinary orthopedic manipulation (VOM), the kind of chiropractic care that she practices.

Unlike chiropractors approved by the AVCA, or the American Veterinarian Chiropractic Association, who manipulate with their hands, Elliot uses a mechanism called an Activator, which fires over the bone to re-establish neural communication.

Differences include the length of the training that vets must undergo to get certified in the two kinds of chiropractic care — Elliot said hers only took a few weeks, while other training can take months.

Despite the differences, Elliot said that she's seen tremendous results. On her website, she even keeps a tab of her "miraculous cures," documenting the stories of New York's various pets whose lives have been changed by the homeopathic treatment.

One of her favorites, for example, happened to an eight-year-old Shih Tsu whose shoulders would pop out of their sockets when she walked.

Elliot could never figure out why the problem occurred, but the sublaxation, as it's called, occurred to Daisy at least three times a week — that is, until she went to see her chiropractic vet.

After just the first treatment, the problem was totally resolved, according to Elliot. It stayed fixed even six months later.

"It's amazing," Elliot said. "The pets can see such an improvement."

According to her research, both dogs and cats can benefit from the treatment, even if they're healthy. That's why she recommends that her patients like Will, a Boston Terrier and Upper East Side show dog, seek chiropractic treatment up to once a week for maintenance.

Will, who recently won "Best of Breed" on the National Dog Show on Thanksgiving Day, is considered to be a good candidate, mostly because he happens to be a little crazy.

"He runs and jumps and hits things regularly," said his owner, Margaret Noble. "I thought something could go awry at some point. I just wanted him to be checked out."

After just one session, however, she said she saw a marked difference in his movement — even though she didn't think he was sick in the first place.

"We've been very pleased with his improvement," Noble said. "We're hoping to see more of that."

And that's Elliot's goal.

"You walk in, and may not even know that you have aches and pains, but then you walk out and you just feel better," Elliot said about chiropractic care.

Part of the reason, she added, is that her care fixes little misalignments before they manifest to become part of a larger problem.

"If you can do some prevention, you're much better off that fixing something that's broken," she added.