PORTERSVILLE, Pa. (AP) — Dr. Chelsey Giardina provides relief to pets in need.
The Portersville resident and veterinarian runs an animal chiropractic care practice called Companions in Motion out of The Green Barn, an animal nutrition store on Zelienople's Main Street.
"People are always surprised by how much dogs enjoy being adjusted," Giardina said. "That's one reason I made this change — my patients are excited to see me. As a veterinarian, that's a big deal."
Since she opened her practice in February 2013, business has grown steadily as word-of-mouth spreads about the hands-on therapy Giardina provides for dogs, cats and horses.
"I'm overwhelmed every day with support from the community," she said. "Right now I'm at this massive spread point where now there's something new every day."
Giardina said she sees a lot of sport horses and dogs who are extremely active and older animals who may be arthritic or have other orthopedic injuries.
Clients can come see her at The Green Barn, and she makes house calls for her equine patients. She treats about 40 animals a week.
Julia Rihn, co-owner of The Green Barn, said having Giardina at the store has been great for both of them as animal wellness and nutrition go hand in hand with chiropractic services. Rihn's golden retrievers, which she trains as hunting dogs, are treated by Giardina.
"I've been taking my dogs to animal chiropractors for years, and it saves tremendously on vet bills," Rihn said.
Chiropractic work is mainly a matter of geometry, Giardina said, and it's similar to chiropractic adjustments performed on humans. The goal is to restore proper movement to affected joints in the spine and extremities so the nervous system and body can heal naturally.
Dr. Kenton Rexford, a veterinarian with the Pittsburgh Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Center, said animal chiropractic work is as legitimate as that for humans, as long as the practitioner is qualified.
Rexford said in Pennsylvania it's illegal for someone to practice chiropractic on an animal unless he or she is a veterinarian who's completed a chiropractic course for animals or someone who has completed a chiropractic course and is working under the direct supervision of a vet.
Giardina completed her veterinary education at The University of Pennsylvania in 2009. She interned at the Mid-Atlantic Equine Medical Center in New Jersey and worked in a traditional equine ambulatory for three years before pursuing an animal chiropractic certification.
Giardina trained at Options for Animals College of Animal Chiropractic in Kansas, the nation's oldest animal chiropractic school and was certified by the International Veterinary Chiropractic Association.
"It became so much more important to me than Western medicine," Giardina said. "I think the two are best used combined, but I don't want to offer people drugs. I want to offer them chiropractic and see if that helps."
Robbie Hroza, vice president of operations at Options for Animals, said in the past five years she's seen more veterinarians add holistic approaches to their care.
"People are starting to look at the natural ways of doing things in their life, so they're like, 'if this helps with me, I'm sure it will help with my animal,' " Hroza said.
Signs a pet might need chiropractic care include lameness, difficulty getting up or down, changes in performance and behavior, and pain when being lifted or touched, Giardina said. Many times the effect of Giardina's treatments is immediate, she said.
There's no such thing as placebo effect when it comes to animals, she said. Animals either feel better or they don't.
"I've seen dogs carried in and walk out," Giardina said. "All I want to do is help every animal that's put in front of me."
Information from: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, http://pghtrib.com