LOS ANGELES — Thirty years ago, Gene Giggleman was a veterinarian who thought chiropractors were quacks. Since then, he says, he’s straightened out thousands of dogs and cats, not to mention the occasional snake, hamster and guinea pig.
“And I know people who have adjusted pigs, goats and rodeo bulls,” said Giggleman, a professor at Parker University in Dallas, which specializes in chiropractic care.
In Southern California, Rod Block has tended to an elephant, a paralyzed iguana, a turkey, pigs, llamas and countless dogs and horses.
“You have to be very much in tune with the being of the animal you are working with,” said Block, who limits his work these days to house calls throughout Southern California, where he works with several veterinarians.
“A chiropractor promotes the flow of energy within the body. Anywhere there is an obstruction or blockage of energy due to subluxation or a dysfunctional group of muscles, what the chiropractor does is normalize that function,” Block said.
Giggleman spends most of his time teaching but still sees patients one day a week. Ninety percent of his patients need chiropractic care and 10 percent need traditional care, he said.
“I’m not an extremist either way. I am for whatever fixes your dog,” he said.
The vets say any human or animal with a spine-related problem can benefit from an “adjustment.”
Unlike Giggleman, who started as a veterinarian, Block spent 30 years as a human chiropractor before he switched gears 20 years ago and became certified by the Bluejacket, Okla.-based American Veterinary Chiropractic Association.
Classes take about a year of extra study, Block said.
The AVCA has certified over 1,000 veterinarians or chiropractors since 1989, said Leslie Means, executive director of the group. There are 560 active members today and they have to be recertified every three years.
However, the certificates are not licenses to practice medicine. In states like Nevada and Oklahoma, getting a certificate is the only way you can set up shop. In Kansas, animal chiropractors must be veterinarians or work under the supervision of veterinarians.
In many states, veterinarians and animal chiropractors work out of the same offices. They can make referrals to one another and even merge their telephone and online listings.
“We are more concerned about the quality than the quantity of life,” Block said. One of his patients is a 38-year-old horse, owned by a veterinary professor. “He’s not rideable, but he’s mobile. He’s off steroids and free to roam around and enjoy the remainder of his life relatively pain-free,” Block said.
The horse doesn’t get top billing in his new book, though. “Like Chiropractic for Elephants” describes how he treated a gimpy elephant at a private sanctuary, how her herd accepted him and how she used body language to help him find her pain.
Through the book, Block said he hopes “to demystify chiropractic. People think that it’s dangerous and that it’s quackery. I really want to illuminate the differences between what allopathic (mainstream) veterinary medical care does and what chiropractic does and how the two integrate well even though they are at opposite ends of the pole.
“Above all, I want people to become more aware of the relationships they have with their animals, which I think is evolving,” he said.