Dr. Zephanie Skow's business practice blends two of her favorite subjects - chiropractic care and animals.
The Fairmont chiropractor recently branched out from two-legged patients to the four-legged kind.
"It's so exciting," said Skow, displaying a picture of Clara, a miniature Dachshund that holds the honor of being her first animal patient.
Above:?Taylor Hilgendorf, left, steadies Smarty while Dr. Zephanie Skow works on the horse’s lower spine during a house call on a farm north of Welcome.
When the dog's owner brought her pet to Skow, Clara was crying and didn't want to eat. She had been X-rayed and prescribed medication by Dr. Dennis Katzer, who suggested Skow's services as an additional option.
"Every animal I see requires a veterinarian's referral," Skow said.
Skow was raised on a farm and active in 4-H, showing beef cattle, poultry and horses. Her father, the late Daniel Skow, was a long-time Fairmont veterinarian.
"Animals have always been a part of my life. I've always loved animals," she said.
Skow graduated from Fairmont High School in 2006 and earned a degree in biology from Augustana College in Sioux Falls in 2010. When she was in high school, she injured her knee and was intrigued by how chiropractic care helped her recover.
She decided to study the subject at Northwestern Health Sciences University in Bloomington, earning her diploma there in November 2013.
She opened her practice, Align Chiropractic and Acupuncture, next to Dr. Tim Hamp's practice at 1125 Spruce St. in February. Within a few months, she expanded her practice to include love for animals.
"It just seemed like the normal thing to do," Skow said, referring to her study at the Veterinary Animal Chiropractic Clinic in Wellsville, Kan. "People from all over the world study there. I loved the class."
While horses and dogs are the most common patients in animal chiropractic, some of Skow's instructors in Kansas had worked on llamas, wild turkeys, dolphins and elephants.
"Animals are similar to children in that they usually respond very fast to chiropractic treatment," Skow said. "Acute patients or patients who are highly active - such as dog agility or being shown on the horse circuit - may require adjustments as frequently as once a month or sooner. Patients coming in for routine care may only need to be seen a few times a year."
Skow recently traveled north of Welcome on a house call for Smarty, a barrel-racing horse owned by Taylor Hilgendorf. Smarty had been experiencing difficulty in competitions so Skow stood on blocks to adjust the horse's spine, shoulders and neck.
"It's not strength so much. It's a high velocity, low amplitude thrust," she explained. "I'm feeling to see if the joint has a nice range of motion. You can feel the motion of the joint."
Smarty, who was a bit leery of Skow's manipulations, soon relaxed, rewarding the doctor with a hand lick.
"In my heart, I know that the chiropractic adjustment is so powerful, and that's why animals make the perfect patient," Skow said. "They can't tell us what's going on, but we can see positive change."
Skow's new clientele resulted in some physical changes at her practice. She is required to have a separate entrance, so animal patients now enter through the building's west door where there is a small waiting area. Animals also must be seen in a separate non-carpeted room.
An office call costs about the same no matter how many hands, or paws, you have. The fee for larger animals is about double, and house calls require a trip charge.
Skow said her licensing does not allow for acupuncture treatment on animals, and she can't travel to Iowa to see patients. However, out-of-state patients can still be seen at her office.
More information is available by calling Skow at (507) 235-8485 or at her website, www.alignchiropracticfairmont.com. She also has a Facebook page.