A 15-year-old spaniel was experiencing occasional incontinence and difficulty in walking, particularly with stairs.
The dog was diagnosed with arthritis in both the hips and pelvis. His primary veterinarian, who did not want to put him on medications because of the risk of liver and kidney damage, recommended chiropractic care. After a few months, the dog no longer had incontinence and was once again able to climb the stairs.
A large breed dog that was often stumbling and falling was diagnosed with the neurological disease known as “Wobblers.” After his first chiropractic treatment, both his balance and walking improved. Three months later, he was running for the first time since his owner adopted him.
These two dogs were treated by Dr. Stephanie Boehm, a licensed chiropractic physician and certified veterinary spinal manipulative therapist. Boehm has volunteered to help both dogs and cats at Anderson Animal Shelter in South Elgin.
“I treated a young terrier mix on several occasions that was brought in paralyzed in her hind limbs,” she said. “A volunteer built her a wheelchair in order to allow her to go on walks and get around easier, but her spirit was unfazed by her physical limitations. She was recently adopted, and she has been doing very well.”
Her practice, ChiroHealth Animal Wellness, offers a gentle, holistic approach to health care for pets which analyzes and treats dysfunction of the spine and joints. Just like chiropractic care for humans, animal chiropractic is centered around the nervous system.
“When an animal has arthritis, the bones and joints are what suffer the most,” Boehm said. “But it is often forgotten that the muscles, tendons, and ligaments near the joints where there is arthritis are affected as well. Muscles tend to get hypertonic or tight near areas of arthritis, which can become uncomfortable and a source of discomfort if left untreated. Arthritic changes over a period of time can lead to weak muscles as well, putting tendons and ligaments at risk for injury if the muscles associated with them are now weak or not functioning properly.”
Boehm earned her Doctorate of Chiropractic degree from the National University of Health Sciences in Lombard. She received her specialization in animals from The Healing Oasis in Sturtevant, Wisconsin. She offers chiropractic manipulation, soft tissue manipulation, cold laser therapy, basic rehabilitative work, and needling, which is similar to acupuncture.
“Growing up, I strongly considered becoming a veterinarian but was very interested in chiropractic medicine as well,” Boehm said. “I provide chiropractic care for animals as I would for people. The difference though, besides anatomy, is that my animal patients cannot tell me what is hurting them. It’s my job to find the root of the problem so as to get people’s pets back to their healthiest state possible.”
Boehm has worked with mostly dogs and horses and sometimes cats.
“Some of the unique dogs I have treated include an Irish Wolfhound, European Great Dane, Belgian Sheepdog, and a 5-week-old Chihuahua puppy,” Boehm said. “I have worked with some amazing thoroughbreds at Arlington Race Track as well as with a Westphalian horse, Pony of America, Quarter Horses and Appaloosas.”
Boehm said she would like to expand her practice to include exotic animals. She sees a variety of cases at Anderson.
“At Anderson Animal Shelter, I have seen animals from all walks of life,” she said. “Some have injuries either physical or emotional, and some are just anxious to find a place to call home. They do an amazing job there of rescuing many animals from high kill shelters and giving them a chance to find their forever home.”
Boehm owns two domestic shorthair cats that she adopted five years ago when she moved from Wisconsin to Illinois. Raji is 5 years old, and Abe is 10. She is also the “godmother” to two dogs, a Chihuahua/Dachshund mix, or Chi-weenie, named Addison and a German Shepherd/Terrier mix named Wriglee. She believes that one of the best things a person can do to improve their pet’s health and mobility is to ensure they get exercise.
“Every animal is different, but maintaining a healthy exercise schedule is very important to keeping an animal’s overall health and joint health well. People should also become educated about a healthy diet for their pet and keep their animal within a healthy weight range in order to reduce some wear and tear on the body.”
Since Boehm knows how difficult it can be to transport an elderly or injured pet to an office, she offers house and barn calls.
Denise Moran is a freelance reporter for The Courier-News.