I’ve experienced firsthand the profound changes that can occur via veterinary chiropractic care, both when used as preventive care throughout life and in cases of treating injured or debilitated animals. So I was thrilled to speak with the latest recipient of our Healthy Pets Animal Game Changer Award, Dr. Marc Sommer of Little Critters Chiropractic Services in New Jersey.
Dr. Sommer was nominated by Diane R., and he started out as a chiropractor treating people. His interest in chiropractic care was inspired by his own football injuries, which left him with intense back pain from a young age. After three months of chiropractic care, he was as good as new, and the experience led him to obtain his DC degree.
After about 10 years, Dr. Sommer discovered the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association and became certified in animal chiropractic. “I've been treating animals ever since,” he said. “Twenty years ago I closed my human practice to treat animals exclusively, and I haven't worked a day since.”
Helping Animals Big and Small
Dr. Sommer has treated animals as small as a hamster and as big as a horse. “A couple of weeks ago, I had a warthog. I've treated potbelly pigs. I've treated horses. I even treated once an iguana,” he said, and “I've treated wolves.”
This goes to show the effectiveness of chiropractic in helping animals of such diverse species. The fact is, lifelong chiropractic, starting in puppyhood or kittenhood, for instance, can prevent many problems from occurring later in life.
“It's always easier to prevent a problem than fix the problem,” according to Dr. Sommer. “I've always said that. But unfortunately, I would say the great majority of my patients, I would call geriatric regardless of the breed or the species, geriatric problems … It can be prevented or at least minimized with early introduction of routine preventive care.”
The No. 1 reason why animals are brought in to see Dr. Sommer is for intervertebral disc disease. “Most common would be age related, arthritic changes, intervertebral disc disease, dysplasias, whether they be in the hip, whether it be the patella in some small breed dogs,” he says. “The most common is the dog that loves to jump off the couch or run down the stairs and injures themselves on impact. That would probably be the single most common cause.”
This is only a sampling of the problems chiropractic care may correct. I have seen many cases of improved bladder tone and neurologic function through maintenance chiropractic care, for instance, along with improvements in tail injuries, difficulty chewing and swallowing and post-surgical healing.
The success of your pet's therapy will often depend on the skill of the practitioner, which is why it's important to find someone who is experienced and licensed to treat pets. This is where Dr. Sommer excels — in ensuring his patients are happy.
“What I love the most is being part of a team that helps an innocent creature, a trusting, loving, innocent creature obtain and then maintain a better quality of life, the best quality of life possible based on the circumstances that they have found themselves in,” he said, adding:
“And the smile … you're helping a patient and they are visibly improving literally during the treatment and the owner sees the difference and the smile that develops, not just the smile on their [face] … but the eyes are smiling. Their souls are smiling. And to have that kind of a dramatic, positive effect on an animal and its human companion, there's to me, there's no joy like it.”
Your Pet’s Body Won’t Lie
As a chiropractor, Dr. Sommer wants people to know that your body won’t lie — so listening to it is important. This is true, too, of your pets, but in this case you must learn to read your pet’s body language. “Animals communicate mostly with their bodies. Learn your animal's body language. Learn the little subtle signs of what they are trying to tell you about how they are feeling.”
This can help you to catch degenerative disease early in the process, giving your pet the best opportunity for an excellent, ongoing quality of life. Dr. Sommer has some words of wisdom outside of chiropractic care as well, in encouraging others to follow their life’s passion:
“When I speak to younger people, I emphasize, if there's something that you love so much to do that you'd even do it for free, but you can support your family doing it, that's a passion. That's what you were created to do. Do it. Pursue it. You will never feel like you worked a day in your life.”
It’s sound advice, as is his wisdom for the animal kingdom, which is certainly healthier and in less pain due to Dr. Sommer’s work. If you’d like to learn more, you can find Dr. Sommer online at LittleCrittersChiropracticServices.wordpress.com.1