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Dr Marvin Firth: The Doggy Chiropractor

We speak with Dr Marvin Firth about the benefits of chiropractic for dogs at his new clinic in Elizabeth Street, Belgravia

How long has Canine Chiropractic been open?
The clinic here has only been going for the last month, but I’ve been doing chiropractic from the start of the year. I’m predominately a vet, but the chiropractic and acupuncture treatments have really escalated as people are starting to realise these are available for animals too.

The Belgravia clinic focuses on dogs, but do you work with other animals?
When I’m coming to and from my home Cornwall, I’ll stop off along the way and do a day with horses before coming here to treat the dogs. 

How do the dogs react to treatment?
They love it – it’s really bizarre. We’ve got quite an elderly dog ourselves, and I check him over every couple of weeks, and he’ll now actually come and lean back into me to have his joints worked on. The amazing thing about acupuncture and chiropractic is that you get an immediate response – people have emailed me a day afterwards to say their dog is now able to get in and out of the car, when they’ve not been able to do that for three years. I’ll see them again because often they’re working against muscle memory, but most issues get resolved within two or three treatments. 

"People have emailed me a day afterwards to say their dog is now able to get in and out of the car, when they’ve not been able to do that for three years."

I’m just amazed that they sit still…
Some are more challenging than others. Certainly puppies can be very wriggly because they think you’re playing. But because you’re quite quick and specific with those adjustments, you can do one, let them move around a little, do another and so on – they cope well.

Do you see more of particular breeds?
Yes, there are certain trends. There are some breeds that have got predispositions to certain conditions – for example, hip dysplasia in labradors. Working dogs, agility dogs, and we’re having a greater proportion of geriatric dogs. We see a lot of smaller designer dogs too. For example, pugs, dachshunds and French bulldogs – many pedigree breeds have set problems so we already know what we might be dealing with, and we try to see them from an early age to prevent extra stresses on their joints. 

"Many pedigree breeds have set problems so we already know what we might be dealing with."

Can owners do anything to prevent the need for treatment?
Yes and no. Simple day-to-day life can take its toll, the same as with humans. Certain precautions can be taken, such as ramps for cars and steps to prevent jumping but often dogs are their own worst enemy. I try to get a lot of the animals I see to take a joint supplement, because they are known to work better before problems arise.

How did you get on to the path of chiropractic?
My initial plan was to become an international specialist for horses, but due to family matters I returned to Cornwall and went into general practice, but I realised that wasn’t for me, so I looked into other options. I went to Germany to train as an internationally approved chiropractor. It’s rare to find a vet in the UK that specialises in both. I trained in acupuncture while I was in general practice, because people do look for alternatives now to conventional medicine. More and more people are having chiropractic and acupuncture themselves, so as a consequence they want it for their animals.

What are the biggest challenges in your line of work?
At the moment, it’s educating vets about chiropractic. Initially they have to understand that there is a place for both acupuncture and chiropractic alongside their normal work rather than instead of it and that it’s a useful and effective service.

So, you also teach?
I started teaching while I was at the Royal Veterinary College. I love teaching – being able to pass on knowledge and skills to students, it’s brilliant.

What’s the response from students?
It’s good, it’s actually younger vets who are easier to talk to about chiropractic because it’s more well-known in general medicine nowadays. At one stage in the past X-rays seemed quite “out there” and I think once you’ve got past that kind of mentality and got good case results, everyone can see the benefits.

Where do you see the practice in 10-20 years?
It will be interesting to see how sustainable it is – even in the last couple of months it’s really escalated. Eventually I’d hope that we’re in London more and more, working with older dogs to make them comfortable and just really providing a great service.

Canine Chiropractic, Elizabeth Street Veterinary Clinic, 55 Elizabeth Street, SW1W , 07738 267 822