Cervical (neck) range of motion is very important to the quadruped (four-footed animal).
The horse is a prey animal and must have 360 degrees of vision to survive. Both canine and feline species are predators and must have 360 degrees of vision to search out and catch their dinner, but also, not become someone else’s dinner. Lack of movement and or incorrect movement in the cervical spine (neck) can be detrimental to survival.
Just like people, animals can experience pain from misalignments in their spine, called subluxations. Subluxations may be caused by several different things such as repetitive use injuries, sport injuries, lack of movement (“couch potatoes” or stall confinement), lifestyle related, birth trauma, etc. This list is no different from our human patients.
A few of the indications that subluxation may be present in the upper parts of the neck may be pain in the neck, decreased flexion at the poll (base of the skull), heavy on the bit, ear sensitivity, head shaking, refusal to eat hard food or treats, not playing with toys and changes in attitude. The animal may appear to have one eye or ear higher than the other. If subluxation is present in the lower neck there may be gait abnormalities, performance problems, inability to extend the fore limbs fully or front limb lameness, decreased side to side bending in the neck and behavior changes.
Lack of movement and/or incorrect movement in the cervical spine may be used to determine the need for chiropractic care. Neck stretches can be done in all quadrupeds. With a treat in your hand, move your hand to each of your animal’s shoulders. Your animal should be able to simply turn their head to reach it. If there is twisting or partial bending followed by backing up, this signifies there is subluxation present in the cervical spine.
The symptoms of neck pain may be obvious to some animal owners, but some may be subtle and difficult to detect. Having your animal evaluated by a certified animal chiropractor is the best way to determine if he/she is functioning at their very best.