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Photos: Chiropractor to the animal world

People & Places Nikki Tundel · ·

1 Certified animal chiropractor Kyla Awes adjusts Lola, an American Warmblood, on April 7, 2011, in Maple Plain, Minn., as assistant Stacy Sletten observes. Awes travels to barns across central and southern Minnesota to see her equine patients. 
2 Kyla Awes checks Lola's neck for any restriction of movement. Awes first studied to become a human chiropractor and received her Doctorate of Chiropractic degree from Northwestern Health Sciences University in Bloomington, Minn. She then studied at Options for Animals College of Animal Chiropractic in Wellsville, Kan., one of the few schools in the world devoted entirely to animal chiropractic. "There are differences in anatomy between humans and animals. But the adjusting is very similar. You can adjust anything that has a spine," says Awes. 
3 Kyla Awes works on an Appendix Quarter Horse named Elle. Minnesota law requires that animal chiropractors, like Awes, obtain a referral from the animal's veterinarian before providing services to that animal. "Chiropractic care is intended to complement traditional veterinary care, not replace it," says Awes. 
4 Animal chiropractor Kyla Awes adjusts Lola's spine using a quick thrust to improve alignment. Many of Awes' clients are competition horses. "They're athletes," says Awes. "What I'm trying to do is help the animal be its best. This is a natural therapy with very few side effects. And this can make a really big difference in their performance." 
5 Chiropractic treatments are often relaxing for horses. Many animals will yawn, sigh, or lick and chew during an adjustment. Here Lola, an American Warmblood, stretches her neck towards chiropractic assistant Stacy Sletten during her treatment. 
6 When she's not working on horses, Kyla Awes treats dogs, cats, and other small animals at the Cleary Lake Veterinary Clinic in Prior Lake, Minn. The first thing Awes does during an appointment is watch the patient walk. Here she observes canine client Olivia on April 27, 2011. "I'm looking for any asymmetry in their movement. I'm watching the movement of the neck, back, and pelvis as well as the length of the strides as they move," says Awes. "I watch everything. It helps me to establish a baseline for where they are at." 
7 Animal chiropractor Kyla Awes works on Hiro, a 3-legged dog with hip dysplasia and arthritis. "I often see dogs where surgery isn't an option," says Awes. "Maybe the owner can't afford it or maybe surgery is too risky. I can do a lot to make those dogs more comfortable and to improve their quality of life." 
8 Kyla Awes gives Olivia a neck adjustment at Cleary Lake Veterinary Clinic in Prior Lake, Minn., on April 27, 2011. "When I'm working on an animal, I'm feeling the motion of the joints," says Awes. "What I'm looking for is any restriction of movement. And that's where I need to adjust." 
9 Kyla Awes (left) and Julie Fahey share stories about their pets in an exam room at Cleary Lake Veterinary Clinic as Fahey's dog Molly looks on. Awes treats many dogs like Molly, a Corgi. "When a dog's back is longer than its legs, that can put extra stress on the spine," says Awes. 
10 Assistant Stacy Sletten (left) watches as animal chiropractor Kyla Awes works on Elle, who's part Thoroughbred and part Quarter Horse, at a private barn in Maple Plain, Minn., on April 7, 2011. "I'm still amazed all the time by the impact chiropractic care can have," says Awes. "I had one horse that was bucking to the point where it was a safety issue for the rider. After one adjustment, the bucking stopped. The horse had been in pain and he was simply trying to tell us that." 
11 Charlie, a Quarter Horse, relaxes as Kyla Awes adjusts her spine. "You do need more force on an adult horse than, say, a human," says Awes. "But how you get that is with the speed of your movement -- because force is equal to mass times acceleration. That means that the adjustments are very quick, and I'm effective without having to be aggressive. This makes the adjustments more gentle for the horse." 
12 "I really love my job," says animal chiropractor Kyla Awes, with Lola, an American Warmblood. "I've always loved animals, and they give us so much. So to be able to help an animal, I feel very lucky." 
13 Kyla Awes works on Lola's neck. "I often tell people that animals tend to be better patients than humans," says Awes, "People have preconceived notions. They think they know what you're going to do before you do it so sometimes they'll tense up. Whereas animals, well, if you help them, they're happy."