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Dog Veterinary Orthopedic Manipulation - The Healing Role of Dog VOM



What is veterinary orthopedic manipulation?

Veterinary orthopedic manipulation uses this tool, which is like an activator tool in chiropractic, to do a neuroanatomical adjustment. And what that means is adjusting the spine from the neck down to the tail so that your dog, cat, or horse, or whatever you have, is in better communication with the rest of the body, allowing it to heal better.


Dr. Chris Valas

The Family Pet Hospital Laser and Wellness Center


Is veterinary orthopedic manipulation known as anything else besides VOM?

No. Dr. Inman started this modality, and it is a type of chiropractic. Unlike chiropractic, it's using and adjusting the entire spine. It's not just looking at where there's a problem. In a lot of chiropractic work, you find where the maladjustment is, and you adjust that. In veterinary orthopedic manipulation, you treat the whole animal as a system and make adjustments along the entire spine. The way I like to think about it is, if you are not well adjusted in one area, it's like a domino effect so that other areas in your spine are off. This causes chronic problems all over the spine. It could be called a form of chiropractic, but there's much more to it than that.


Is VOM the same as chiropractic care?

No. You're using a tool used in chiropractics like the activator, which I just showed you, but it is doing more than that. It is adjusting the entire animal, not only one area in the spine of the animal.


When would my veterinarian recommend veterinary orthopedic manipulation?

Technically, it can be used for many problems. I frequently use it for orthopedic problems like hip dysplasia, knee injuries, ligament tears, lamenesses of any kind, back disease, disc disease, and issues of that kind. However, if you think about the spine as a system of wires going from your head or your brain to all the other organs in your body, essentially, when you're using this manipulation, you allow communication to go from your brain to all the organs in the body. If there is maladjustment at a certain area of the spine, you could have pain in that area. But in addition to that, the nerves that are coming out at that segment of the spine are also going to perhaps cause issues in the kidneys, the bladder, intestines, or other internal organs. Veterinary orthopedic manipulation can be used for many diseases, not just chiropractic type or musculoskeletal types, but that is the number one reason we use it here is for pain related to the joints or the back.


Why haven't I heard of VOM technology before?

Well, that's a good question. We live in a society where we want to go to pills and treatment right away. The fast cure for pain is to take pain medication. The problem with that is that you're not affecting healing at the point where you hurt; you're just taking away the pain. And this may be a little political, but the pharmacies make a lot of money on medications, and that is the number one driver of research that is done out—what pill will take care of what condition? And so there's very little information and very little research that is funded on alternative healing technologies. I think that chiropractic work, VOM, laser, which we'll talk about at another time, are all integrative and alternative modalities that do not make big money for big pharma. They don't have the research dollars behind them to promote it and push it into the mainstream with advertising, et cetera, as we have for all the other medications that we use.


What are the risks of veterinary orthopedic manipulation?

The great thing is that this doesn't have any risk. The worst that could happen is that it doesn't work. The good news is that it works in a good number of cases. And in my hands, I've seen 80% of my patients will improve or get completely turned around and not need any more meds ever. One of the benefits of veterinary orthopedic manipulation is that it increases blood flow to the organs, so the organs get better. But if there is a cancer that's growing somewhere in the body, then obviously that would also increase blood flow to that. In cases where tumors or major cancers are drawing blood from the system, they will also technically get fed more. Now having said that, in most cases, we do screen animals to try and make sure that they don't have cancer or that we're not dealing with a cancerous process because that wouldn't necessarily be helped by veterinary orthopedic manipulation. It may be harmed, so we would try to do our best to ensure that the animal does not have cancer.


Why are VOM bombs so accurate?

You're taking a motion from this little veterinary instrument and applying it to the segment of the spine. Essentially you are doing it, and you're doing it with this instrument, and I'm going to click it. That's how fast it applies the motion to the point where you want it. Compared to a traditional chiropractic adjustment, where the practitioner is using their hands. No matter how fast we go, our hands will never be as fast as the tool. The tool is precise in that you place it right on the top of the spine, and it gives the pulse before the animal can move.

Again, this is another big thing with chiropractic work in animals because if you're doing a traditional adjustment and the animal moves, well, you probably haven't done an adjustment. And in fact, you could have harmed the animal at that point because it moved, and you can't tell the animal not to move. With veterinary orthopedic manipulation, with this tool, you do it so fast that if the animal moves, it will not change the adjustment. You will have affected an adjustment at that point in the spine.


What can VOM treat?

Again, most of the time, we're dealing with orthopedic issues. One of the best successes that I have had is in anterior cruciate ligament tears. And I could say that there is an epidemic of those in this country and probably in this world. Before VOM, I would say 100% of the dogs that I saw with an ACL tear or anterior cruciate ligament tear of their knee would end up in surgery. And unfortunately, about 80% of those would tear the other knee, and the dog would end up in surgery again, two months to two years later, to get the other ligament and the other knee fixed. And what I found now is that instead of 100% of those dogs, I would say less than 20 to 30% of those dogs need surgery. And when I first started doing this about seven or eight years ago now, I thought it was only going to be the little dogs that would be successfully treated with this technology.

Since then, I have had Labs, German Shepherds, and Rottweilers regain successful use of their knees without losing muscle, which is very common. In cases where people cannot afford the surgery because it's $3,500 a knee, they would continue to live. We wouldn't euthanize them, but they would lose a significant amount of muscle in their legs. And the dog would essentially use that leg almost like a peg leg. With veterinary orthopedic manipulation, the dog goes back to full function, and they have muscle in that leg. And that doesn't mean just the little dogs did that or the big dogs, as it doesn't matter. All of them will respond if they're going to respond. And as I said, 70% of them do respond and do not need the surgery. And yes, maybe if they don't continue to be adjusted regularly, every three months or so, they will go ahead and tear the other one. But guess what? When they do, the other will respond as well if they responded the first time around. That one is incredibly successful.

I've had a couple of paralyzed dogs who could not afford to go and have back surgery done to remove a bulging disc that had caused paralysis and also responded to veterinary orthopedic manipulation and laser therapy. Those are very classic and excellent examples of how powerful this technology is. Dogs with hip dysplasia - dogs that have been born with bad hips and are now six, seven years old and would be having to take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for the rest of their lives in addition to joint supplements - get comfy without drugs. They're only on nutritional supplements and regular veterinary orthopedic manipulation treatments. Those are my classic examples of what this treatment is very successful for.


Can all my animals be treated with VOM?

Yes. In fact, when I first did the training, they had a dolphin at Sea World being treated with veterinary orthopedic manipulation. They also had several cats that were more of the exotic cats that could be handled. Not all exotic cats can be handled, but the ones that could be had VOM. The treatment can also be used in mice, birds, and rabbits. Any animal with a spine, a brain, and nerves can be treated with veterinary orthopedic manipulation.


Why is VOM so successful?

That's a difficult question to answer if we try to think with the traditional way of thinking. But not so hard if we think about what the body is doing every day. The body is a system of communication, and it's in constant communication with the brain. The brain is like the motherboard. If we think about the body as a computer, we have the motherboard in the head, and then we have all the wires going everywhere else. As long as the body is in communication with all the parts in the body, the body will do what the body does every day, and the body heals itself every day. In fact, when you wake up in the morning, you're not the same body that you were when you went to sleep at night. Many of your cells have been replaced, and the dead ones have been killed and eaten away, and new cells have replaced those. You are in constant communication, and you're in a continual state of healing.

The problem happens when disease hits, and that stops or blocks communication. If you injure a leg, the body withholds stuff from that leg—fluids, blood, etc. The body pulls away from that area because it hurts, and it puts every effort into all the other areas and tries to ignore that bad area. And if that state's chronic, then you never get a normal functioning area. And that is the classic reason why you get a new normal, such as a gimpy gait, arthritis, and sometimes even deformities at the area that it's been withheld from. You lose muscle in that limb. And that's because the body has stopped communicating. It got sick and tired of being sick and tired and said, "You know what? I have a lot of other areas that I can take care of. We're going to forget about you." Veterinary orthopedic manipulation, laser, acupuncture, and all those alternative healing technologies are based on getting the body back in communication with itself so it can do what it does every day.


Is VOM an easy treatment?

VOM is incredibly easy. It's quite spectacular in how easy it is. The surgery for ACL is not easy, and it involves breaking the bone and re-plating it with six to seven screws. It's not easy, and it's invasive. VOM is straightforward, not painful, non-invasive, and certainly not as expensive either. And again, it's working with the body's way of healing by re-establishing communication with the area of injury. And by the way, the reason that it works so well is that it takes away the pain right away. Now I've had chiropractic work done on myself with an activator device very similar to the VOM tool, and the lack of pain is the first thing you notice. You're like, boom, whatever was there that was hurting goes away. And yes, the pain comes back, so that's why you have to go back and get another treatment because you have to build muscle memory. You have to tell the body it's okay until it's done its healing, but it works like a charm and is very easy to do.


What will happen to my pet during a VOM appointment?

The technician stands on one side of your pet, and I stand on the other side, and we take this tool and go right from the neck and click it down the spine. The whole treatment takes about five minutes each time, and the dog's not being held. They're just standing there. What I find is the first time that they do it, they react a little bit to the noise because it is a slight click. But after they figure out that the click doesn't hurt and, on top of that, it seems to take away their pain, they relax. And what I've also noted is that sometimes they'll push their back up to get more of it if I'm not putting enough pressure on it because I'm not putting pressure on the device. I'm just laying it on top of the joint. And that, to me, is an indication that they like it and they don't move. They don't have to be held. If you are holding them too much, then I stop because it's not going to work that way. You need to have the animal relaxed, standing, and then they love it. And we do three passes. We go back to the neck, go down the spine, and do that three times. And then they go home and come back for the subsequent treatment.


What types of tools are used when you perform VOM?

It's called an activator. It's a chiropractic tool. It's a bit different but the same concept as the chiropractic activator tool. I call it the VOM tool.


How many appointments will my pet need?

The first series is a series of eight treatments, and I feel like that's what's needed to get a total adjustment after an injury or a problem. We do five weekly treatments, and then we do another treatment two weeks after that, another treatment three weeks after that, and another treatment a month after that. And this is going back to building muscle memory, telling the body that it is okay, that it's not going to hurt, that you can keep going, and allowing that flow of blood and fluids to go into the injured area to heal. The body enables the treatment to get all arthritis, eat away the inflammation, clean it up, and start laying down new cells and tissue to either stabilize or completely heal the injury.


Is there a recovery time period?

Yes, but only in the sense that you have to rest your dog, especially with the cruciate tear or back injuries. There will be a time, especially at the beginning, where your dog should get no exercise. Soon after, when the dog is putting weight on that leg, we start telling you to do short walks, maybe to your neighbor's house and back. Do that two or three times a day and then longer and longer and longer walks. What we need to do is we need to build up muscle. Whenever we have joint issues, we want to make sure that the muscles take over for where the joints can't. And, if you think about it, if you didn't have muscles, ligaments, or tendons, then you would be a rumble of bones on the floor. What's keeping you upright is not your bones, and it's not your joints, but your muscles and your tendons.

We don't want to give them a long, protracted period of rest. We want to get the dog up and moving as soon as we can to use those muscles. But yes, you do not want to let your dog off-leash and let them chase a squirrel when we are just starting the treatment, because then you're going to go one step forward and five steps back because the dog is going to keep re-injuring that same area. We want to be careful and keep them contained, and we want to do controlled exercise to build up the muscle.


How soon after a procedure will I notice a difference in my pet?

That's a great question. Usually, I say the magic happens between week three and week five. I sometimes get those calls with the person asking, “What in the world did you do to my pet?” Because they are like a new dog after the first treatment. In my mind, that is entirely impossible, but I think that it comes from the fact that it shuts that pain away. If the dog has been chronically painful and then has a treatment and that day they don't feel pain, they're going to act like they're a puppy again. They're going to feel great. That's a little bit of a danger of this technology in that if you think that they're doing great and you say, "Oh my God, they're doing great," and you let them go, they're going to get injured again.

It's usually week three to week five in the ACLs, where we see full weight bearing on that leg. And then we know that we can now start walking them and using the muscles and continue to get more blood flow into the knee, decreasing the inflammation and the pain while increasing the function. And ultimately, with any technology or any surgery, we're getting the animal to function well.

I had a Lab this morning that had both ACLs torn, and he comes now every four months. Each time, I ask the owner, "What's he doing? How's he doing at home?" The answer is that there is full function, both muscle bellies fully formed, and no evidence of any pain. I don't know about arthritis because I'm not doing x-rays every time. I'm sure there has to be some arthritis, but again, remember that we are increasing the blood flow and the lymph flow into the joints. We are cleaning up those joints so that arthritis is decreased. They do tremendously after that.


If anybody has more questions about veterinary orthopedic manipulation, what should they do?

Call us and ask to speak to Dr. Valas. We always have a no-charge, no-commitment consultation. I go over this with you guys, and I give you the estimate for the treatment. And then, if you want to go forward with it, we go forward with it. Otherwise, you can look for other therapies because there are different modalities, but I don't think they are as effective. I used to send a lot of patients that didn't want surgery to acupuncture, and it was maybe one in five that would do well, and then the other ones would end up in surgery or on chronic medications.

You can always ask around and look for more information online. I think that this is an excellent alternative to surgery. I'm not happy about considering surgery for myself, so I feel the same about our pets. If we have to, we go to surgery, but if other things can be explored and used instead of surgery that may prevent us from having to do surgery, I think we should explore those options.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (508) 231-1223, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as soon as we can.

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