Sara Gilbertson, DVM, of New Holstein performs chiropractic measures on animals ranging from cats to horses.
Sara Gilbertson, DVM, of New Holstein performs chiropractic measures on animals ranging from cats to horses.
By Maureen Blaney Flietner
Chiropractic adjustments on the farm? Yep, and we aren't even talking about the farmer's aching back.
Chiropractic care is now helping cows and calves, and even horses, dogs and cats.
Sara Gilbertson, DVM, of New Holstein knows. "Producers call me anywhere from the first attempt to fix a problem to being their last resort."
Gilbertson recently opened her own mobile practice, Lake to Lake Veterinary Chiropractic LLC ( after working as an equine and dairy veterinarian for five years at a local clinic. She attended Options for Animals, College of Animal Chiropractic, Kansas, in 2010 and became certified by the International Veterinary Chiropractic Association.
The 2005 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine said working on calves is the most rewarding. "They are growing and changing so much that you can really help them quickly."

Works with a lot of calves
She said typical cases are calves born with a head tilt, an inability to stand, or structural abnormalities which have occurred in utero. "I usually work on them one or two times a week at first," she said.
Just what is animal chiropractic? It is similar to the human health care field. It focuses on the preservation and health of the animal's neuro-musculo-skeletal system. The goal is to keep that system functional so that stiffness, tension, pain and even organ dysfunction do not occur. When life happens-trauma, conformation problem, overuse, maybe a fall-a change occurs in the alignment of the system. Symptoms such as a gait abnormality, sensitivity to touch, or lameness might appear. Chiropractic care, through its adjustments to the spine and joints, restores function and mobility. That allows the system to re-establish neurologic transmissions to heal from within.
How can a woman possibly move the bones of large animals? Gilbertson said she gets a lot of similar questions but explains, "Chiropractic adjustments are not based on the size or strength of the doctor. The adjustment is a precise, quick motion. Speed and precision are the keys, not muscle."
For cows, she said, chiropractic care helps with reproductive issues and locomotion issues. "Cows may develop a lameness that isn't in the foot or seem stiff while getting up or while they are standing."

Horse's attitude changes
With horses, she gets called for performance issues. "A lot of the time the horse has started to exhibit a change in attitude. They may be unwilling to stay on the rail, toss their head, be unable to take or keep the correct lead, swish their tail, fire out behind when asked to canter, or have lameness issues that can't be diagnosed medically."
Most horse owners are typically not skeptical about veterinary chiropractic. "This kind of care seems more widely accepted in the horse world." For cattle producers, not so much. "They are skeptical until they see results," Gilbertson said.
Most people want to know how often or how many times she will have to see their animal. Typically, for horses and cattle, she sees the animal every three to four weeks, depending on the condition.
She admits chiropractic isn't the answer for every problem. "I always tell people that we have to see how the animal responds to the first few visits and then we will know if it is going to work."
The advantage of veterinary chiropractic, as Gilbertson sees it, is that it is beneficial for the whole body. "I work on the whole animal, checking for motion in each joint and adjusting as needed, not just one area. Chiropractic can be used in conjunction with traditional medicine but offers a less invasive approach than some of the traditional methods for treating locomotion and medical issues."

Equine dentistry offered too
With the opening of her business, Gilbertson has expanded her offerings to include equine dentistry. For that service, depending on the animal's needs and client request, she uses either a hand float or an equine dental power float. The battery-operated and water-irrigated power tool with variable speeds is designed to provide the most comfort for the animal and safety for the teeth.
Lake to Lake Veterinary Chiropractic also provides routine equine veterinary care such as vaccinations, Coggins tests, lameness evaluations, and prepurchase and wellness exams as well as chiropractic care for dogs and cats.
Gilbertson's main service area includes Calumet, Manitowoc, Sheboygan and Fond du Lac counties but she also travels into Brown, Outagamie and Kewaunee counties as needed. She handles client requests for equine chiropractic and dentistry in La Crosse County every six to eight weeks.
Whether it is freezing cold or hot and humid, Gilbertson-in work gear that might include rubber knee boots but always diamond rings-uses her veterinary skills in barn aisles and sheds. "I went into this career because I love working with cattle and horses," she said. "I grew up with both species and can't imagine not being involved with them. I also enjoy the conversations and friendships that arise with the clients and the different disciplines."
Dr. Gilbertson can be reached at (920) 286-2291 or visit

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