ST PETER — Like most bird dog owners, Paul Ostoff is keenly aware of nuances of his canine hunting partner’s behavior.
And seven months after his Munsterlander pointer (picture a dog resembling a tall springer spaniel with a long tail, Ostoff says) was struck by a car while crossing the street to greet a neighbor, it was apparent that something was amiss with the 7-year-old dog.
“I took her to the vet after being hit and every thing checked out — nothing broken, nothing out of whack,” he said.
But while the dog initially seemed to recover from the encounter, over the next several months, Ostoff noticed a significant decline in the dog’s physical abilities.
“She was struggling just to get up steps,” he said. “I was started to think it was time to look for a new hunting dog.”
Then Ostoff’s wife heard of a chiropractic clinic in St. Peter that in addition to treating humans, also offered chiropractic treatment for animals.
“Instead of investing all the money and emotion in a new dog, I though it was worth a try,” he said.
He made a call to the Dr. Seth Nelson at Rising Sun Chiropractic for an appointment.
A change in state law four years ago now allows chiropractors who take a 220-hour, seven-month-long course in chiropractic treatment for animals to expand their practice to include dogs, cats and other animals.
Nelson, a Lake Crystal native, is one of about 20 chiropractors in Minnesota licensed and certified to treat animals.
While he has treated cats, alpacas, even a snake, he concentrates mainly on dogs and horses.
Working on patients referred by area veterinarians, he maintains separate hours and exam spaces for his small animal practice. He performs on-site treatment for horses within about a two-hour radius of St. Peter.
Not surprisingly, at this time of the year, hunting dogs are frequent visitors to his clinic on the south end of St. Peter.
“Hunting dogs are like athletes,” he said. “But when they lay around the house all summer and then you say, ‘we’re going to South Dakota pheasant hunting where you’re going to have to run all day‚’ it takes its toll.”
Nelson said that unless there’s a major injury like a blown ACL or a herniated disc, the signs of discomfort in a dog frequently are subtle. “They might not be able to lift their head or eat out of a bowl, can’t lift a leg.”
During a typical visit, Nelson first does a complete physical assessment of his canine patient, searching for tenderness and mobility issues before performing any adjustments.
“Dogs usually are like Jell-O during treatment — they let me do what I need to do,” he said.
“They’ll let me know if I’m doing something that makes them uncomfortable. I’ve never been bitten by a dog and been kicked only once by a horse. And once was enough.”
While treatment consists of adjustments similar to those performed on his human patients, Nelson said the physique of a canine is far different.
“Without the right neurological training, you can do real damage if you do the wrong thing,” he said.
“Response to the treatment sometimes is a dramatic improvement, but sometimes, just like in humans, you can’t expect to walk out just like a brand new person,” Nelson said.
After a treatment session, the a dog typically will be tired and thirsty.
In the case of Ostoff’s dog, three visits to Nelson put it back in the pink.
“After the first visit, at least she wasn’t any worse,” he said.
“After the second visit, she was running around, sometimes playing like a puppy would, but she still wasn’t 100 percent.”
“After the last visit, we went out to the truck she jumped right onto the tailgate,” he said.
Ostoff, who admitted he was a little skeptical of canine chiropractic treatment, now says he is sold on it. “It was a last resort and really, not a lot of money,” he said.
An initial visit to Rising Sun Chiropractic, including the physical assessment and treatment costs $75. Subsequent visits are $45.
Now well into the fall hunting seasons and having logged numerous days afield with his four-legged hunting partner who is back to hunting with gusto, Ostoff believes it was money well-spent
“She’s back to her old self,” he said. “We’ve been out hunting pretty much all day sometimes,” he said.
John Cross is a Free Press staff writer. Contact him at 344-6376 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.