Happiness is…a Warm Puppy with a Normal Nervous System

By Bill Ormston, DVM and Amy Hayek, DVM

You may have wondered if regular chiropractic adjustments can make your animals happier.. Our answer is absolutely yes. Happiness is a chemical reaction. There are receptors in the brain called “Opioid receptors”. They are named this because they are easily stimulated by drugs called opioids, drugs that, like the drug Opium, affect the brain and make it feel happy. The nervous system controls and coordinates all organs and structures of the body and this system is protected by the spinal column. Misalignment or subluxations to the vertebrae in your pet’s spine can irritate particular nerves and thereby affect their function and that of the structure and organs they control. When subluxations occur to any of the top three vertebrae of the cervical spine, the possible effects or conditions range anywhere from nervousness and restlessness to attitude changes and anxiety. Production of serotonin and dopamine (“the happy chemicals”) is jeopardized.


When an animal has a nervous system that is out of balance, these opioid receptors don’t just lie dormant but they become agitated. This causes the body to be flighty because it is trying to figure out a means by which to quiet the receptors. This may cause behaviors that look like the Flight part of the fight or flight mode. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety is the most common mental health illness. Patients suffering from General Anxiety Disorder make three to five times more visits to doctors’ offices and emergency rooms. A healthy spine and nervous system keeps your pet’s flow of energy balanced, their immune system strong and resistance to disease high. An unhealthy, unbalanced spine can interfere with the natural flow of energy through the body, creating blockages and imbalances that may cause physical and emotional fatigue.


Chiropractic care removes the interference to the nervous system by correcting the misalignment and allowing the body to heal itself. When the nervous system is able to better communicate with all the body parts, the opioid receptors are better served. They remain more calm and not only that, the animal is happy.

Pain can mimic depression. The same nervous pathways that are stimulated during depression are also stimulated during pain, especially chronic pain. This chemical look-alike pattern can also be similar to the flighty behavior seen during the time when the opioid receptors are not being stimulated often enough. Chiropractors take a natural approach to health by focusing on the source of problem, rather than masking symptoms with medication. A 2012 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine followed 272 neck pain patients for 12 weeks and found that those who saw a chiropractor were twice as likely to be pain free compared to those who took medication. Of those who sought chiropractic treatment, 32% became pain free versus 13% of those who treated with medication and became pain free. Animals that are under routine chiropractic care have more balanced nervous systems than animals that are not under chiropractic care. They are better able to feel less pain, and are therefore free to enjoy the life of being your pet.

While stress may seem like a normal part of daily life, it doesn’t have to be. Animals who are under constant stress are at higher risk for chronic health problems including heart disease. Add to this poor eating and sleeping habits that often accompany stress, and your animal’s body is sure to take a toll. In fact, studies show that when the body is stressed, it goes into survival mode and produces more of the hormone cortisol. While high levels of cortisol are linked to an increased risk for heart disease, diabetes, weight gain and poor sleeping habits, chiropractic care can help the body reduce cortisol levels, remove toxins from the body and leave your animal feeling less stressed. Chronic stress results in muscle tension and contractions which in turn leads to uneven pressure on the skeleton. Since chiropractic adjustments focus on realigning the spine, they ease the stress placed on certain parts of the body and relieve muscle tension. Achieving a balanced spine is a big part of reducing your pet’s stress levels.

The heart has recently been found to be an organ important for emotional relationships in a chemical way, not just in the Valentine’s Day way. The heart produces as much is not more oxytocin, a hormone for attachment and comfort, than does the centers that produce oxytocin in the brain. So for happiness and love, maintaining heart nerve function is essential and a part of the results from routine chiropractic care.


Being healthy and being happy go hand in hand. The opposite is also true: an unhealthy pet often exhibits lack of energy and joy. Their inner chemistry is responsible for this and, ironically, patients that are often diagnosed as “chemically imbalanced” are treated with medication that further negatively affects their chemistry. According to the Preventative Medicine Institute, those who receive chiropractic adjustments on a regular basis experience an immune system up to 200% stronger than those who do not receive this care. Animals with strong immune systems are more productive, are less likely to get sick and grumpy and have fewer trips to the veterinarian. Sometimes as pets age and show signs of pain, owners opt for “keeping them comfortable” rather than heroic treatments, which means happy, right? If your animal has a weak immune system or chronic dis-ease problems, regular visits to the chiropractor may be the answer you are seeking to assist in his overall happiness.