As an animal chiropractor, Julie Graves can’t talk with horses, dogs, or bunnies about their aches and pains. But animals communicate through body language — limping or lameness, less flexibility, a tail that is off-balance. “I need to be in tune with the animal’s energy and what they are feeling,” said Graves, who has an animal chiropractic practice in Wellesley and affiliation with Wellesley Animal Hospital. Graves started as a human chiropractor two decades ago and became interested in animal biomechanics. She spoke about how chiropractic adjustments on animals can unlock their natural ability to heal.
“I started my chiropractic work on horses, although I had my doubts as to whether I could work with equines. I am not a big woman — 5 feet, 4 inches — and horses can be thousands of pounds. But I discovered there are intrinsic conditions, like arthritis, that can be similar.
“With some horses, I tend to do stretching and releasing of the muscle, and acupressure. Animals are often very in tune with the approach I am taking. As a longtime human chiropractor, I found that working with animals validates the efficacy of what we are doing. People can be very skeptical of [chiropractors] and have preconceived ideas, but animals don’t have this filter.
“When I started working with dogs and bunnies, for example, I found that they are very responsive. Bunnies are interesting — people think a bunny is just a bunny, but they are actually very clear communicators. As prey, bunnies are always a little jumpy, but they love body work and turn into big mush piles on the table.
“Is there any species I haven’t worked on? I helped a miniature kangaroo at an Australian farm that didn’t seem to be jumping properly. And you know what? It might sound crazy, but it would be cool to adjust a giraffe. With the long cervical spine, that would be a challenge. But I’m pretty sure I’m not going to get that kind of opportunity.”