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Dr O Interviews Dr Michelle Milton-McDonald

Dr. O- Welcome everyone to another episode of Animal Chiropractic Clinic Chatter. I'm your host Dr. O, and today we're here with Dr. Michelle Milton-McDonald. Go ahead and tell us a little bit about


Dr. Milton-McDonald- well I live down by Galveston in Santa Fe, Texas. I am originally from right here in this area, and went to veterinary school at Texas A&M. Then after graduation went into an equine internship followed by a large animal, about 90 equine, practice I trained in acupuncture at the Chi Institute during my internship and came in and started practicing. About five years ago and decided that I was missing a little something. In my lameness workups and that brought me to chiropractic. So I have a wonderful husband and three little girls and so we live here in Santa Fe with our three horses and a whole smothering of other animals; chickens, dogs, cats and right now in the critter cage I think we've got caterpillars. I'm not sure

Dr. O- Alright so, how has animal chiropractic changed your personal life and your practice life? Did you take them together one at a time?

Dr. Milton-McDonald- Yeah, well and most of us veterinarians don't separate those two out very well do we. So as a typical equine veterinarian I was working absurdly long hours 24 hour on call, talking about anywhere from 60 to 80% of the call for the practice I was working for. I was burning out fast and we were ready to start a family and it wasn't happening for us, so

leaving that practice and kind of starting my own practice doing chiropractic acupuncture only has given me the work life balance that I needed to get our family started. So I work really good hours for the same pay at first, but now it's much better. I'm home with my kids every night for dinner and I am so rewarded by what I'm doing professionally, far beyond what I ever imagined that I would be doing. At first I started doing the chiropractic and acupuncture only because I didn't want to move and I had a non-compete and I swear some of my clients had the end date of that non-compete written on their calendar. It was up this year and they were calling like what services are you adding back in and I said none I'm too busy and I'm very fulfilled with what I'm doing and there's only one of me and I'm going to take this important care away from patients if I start adding in other services and frankly my practice doesn't need me to do that and I'm not willing to work more hours away from my family so.

Dr. O- Nice

Dr. Milton-McDonald- Yeah, it's been amazing!

Dr. O- You do know that I tell one of your stories to every class.

Dr. Milton-McDonald- Oh no is it the concussion story? Do you remember my I had fallen off my road bike

Dr. O- Right.

Dr. Milton- McDonald- For one of the courses and like was suffering through the whole thing.

Dr. O- No no ,it is the this stuff works at four in the morning.

Dr. Milton-MCDonald- Yeah yes.

Dr. O- You remember?

Dr. Milton- McDonald- Absolutely yes, because it was so like, oh it was a moment of oh my goodness I've been taking away or not offering something so important to every patient before this one. Yeah it was a huge light bulb moment for me.

Dr. O- You want to share?

Dr. Milton-McDonald- Yeah absolutely, a dummy foul presented about I don't know maybe 7:30 in the afternoon or in the evening and afternoon really, when you're in equine vet, what's the difference that's pretty early. Just could not get this little sucker to nurse and they would not refer it to the clinic at I'm at, we don't have after hours technicians, so it's me and

the mama and the foul for hours and hours. I'm milking her and tubing this foul, we squeeze me squeeze it we do all the things. This thing will not nurse, now he'll latch on to her and have a great suckle but he will not nurse and finally I mean it was probably about 2:30-3 maybe four in the morning. I was like, you know, I'm just gonna adjust his atlas and just see. I would be darned if I didn't adjust that little foul's atlas and stick him up under that udder and he immediately latched on and nursed. I mean good nursing, like nurse the utter down, great swallow reflex and he never looked back from that, never looked back, he was discharged like the next afternoon and he was great. Grew up healthy, they moved away but the last I heard they were actually riding it, so yeah it was a light bulb moment for me for sure so sorry about that 4 a.m call.

Dr. O- That's what we're here for, you know, just to try but fill in what were you doing so people know. Where you're at in this whole process, what did you do between milking, the mare and feeding the babies, you weren't just sleeping. What were you doing? You were getting ready for module two right?

Dr. Milton-McDonald- Yeah, yeah I mean I was studying absolutely. Yeah I was studying and watching the videos for sure.

Dr. O- Yeah so anyway that's pretty cool, so that's our light bulb moment. What's some of the cases that are in your heart?

Dr. Milton- McDonald- I was telling my husband this morning, he's gonna ask me what my biggest win case is or like what's my most memorable case and I don't know how to narrow it down, I don't know how to say it because I constantly am like, well I'm not sure that you're gonna get the results you're looking for. This isn't gonna totally fix your animal or I'm not sure that this lameness is chiropractic only but you're here let's adjust and then we'll check up tomorrow. I mean that is constantly happening for me. So my big wins are everything from those 4-H kids that right now I've got one that she went down while they were clipping her and man, she was hanging the leg lame and then once we got her weight bearing on it well, once the regular vet drugged her with enough things to make her weight bearing on it her gait was so short and asymmetric. They couldn't have shown this heifer and that heifer, they're doing amazing and they they're great clients and they stuck with me through some really intensive adjustments but then I was really worried about her pelvis and she took on the first breeding, which they won't attribute to the chiropractic but I certainly will and so those are huge for me. To know that I'm helping that animal but to watch those kids win and then using chiropractic for my palliative care patients. That precious time in the human-animal bond, where at the end of life care, knowing that I can contribute any way to making those animals more comfortable and giving those owners the little bit more time that they need, that's huge to me because I love the human-animal bond. Those my first down doxy was huge for me, my husband being home for about the fifth one and he calls what I he likes to say it's witchcraft, and try to pretend like he's a non-believer and that dog had been completely paralyzed in the hind end and during its after its first adjustment we were doing some acupuncturing that dog moved the end of its tail and the owners were crying and I got choked up and I look in the other room and I'll be darned if he doesn't have tears in his eyes too. That dog, after about the third adjustment, was walking. I mean they were needing to support it, but that dog was walking and that dog is running now. I said please don't let it jump. So I mean down horses, that we have gotten up with just an adjustment. I mean the wins are too big for me to pick any one thing, so everything from improved performance and an animal going in the ring and doing better than it would have. It's i lots of docs that's you're probably not going to be able to help but then euthanasia. We have to know we tried everything. I love that challenge. I mean there's nothing to lose there, so that's a great place to be. When you help it's big and you get a lot of wins and not in that ring.

Dr. O- So yes you gotta echo when I talk so I'll try to keep it quiet. What would you tell every vet student, every female that's coming out of that school right now about animal chiropractic?

Dr. Milton-McDonald- I'm glad you specified, you know for me I think the industry is in a tough place right now. I think as women, we sometimes have a much harder time getting that work life balance, finding time to fit motherhood in or even just self-care. Having this tool in your tool bag, man if you're an equine vet it can save you a lot of hours at night but really I wish that everybody would at least all the students would at least be educated in and how helpful it can be and if they're not going to practice themselves at least find a good chiropractic practitioner in your area that you can refer to. That you trust sending your clients to and you know I'm real careful not to step on, I get a lot of referrals now and I'm really careful to work with those veterinarians and not not step on toes, and send back to them for everything that they can do. So that their patients continue to reap the benefits of chiropractic care and so I'm lucky that I'm in a place where veterinarians are starting to really utilize this more. There's always the sticklers that won't but again I love it when their clients find me on their own and they go back and it makes them think, oh well she did add something here.

Dr. O- Yeah we see that all the time. In fact, I've got one from A&M right now that amputated the leg.

Dr. Milton-McDonald- I just like to say well that's not how I would handle that case if I wasn't there but let's try this.

Dr. O- Yeah

Dr. Milton-MCDonald- Is that dog weight-bearing now

Dr. O- Yeah for the first time in six months.

Dr. Milton-McDonald- Incredible.

Dr. O- So after two visits but then a lot of and I’m sure you get this too. We get so many miracles, we get so many boom, that when we have a dog like this that has so much atrophy or a horse with so much atrophy on one leg that we've got one now that after a second visit well it's still a little lame doc, so I had to measure measure leg circumference to show them that, well this leg is an inch and a half smaller than the other leg. So until we get those even, we will probably have a lame right and they're like oh well. And I said this is why we should go adjust all the other horses in the barn, before they get lame.

Dr. Milton-McDonald- Yeah using chiropractic prophylactically versus only when there's a problem is and in fact I've changed my fee schedule to try to get people to use it more frequently. So that we're getting horses and dogs adjusted before they have the injury versus trying to work through after. I mean, of course for the new clients that haven't used me yet that's not an option but I explain my fee schedule, you know a lot of people money talks right, so I was running in circles saying over and over again like we really need to follow up, we really need to follow up, even if everything looks great you know, let's use it to keep that injury from happening again or to support, so that the other cruciate doesn't tear. Let's use this prophylactically and it wasn't. I kind of felt like I was banging my head into the wall. Some of the changes in my fee schedule really helped. If you see me at a regular interval, it's a lot cheaper. The owners never complain. I'm like oh well you're outside the interval and so you're gonna have to pay me, I call it an exam fee but essentially you're making me start over for fully examining your animal. Finding all of the new problems and we're starting from the ground up if you're waiting that long between adjustments, so it's more time for me too. So it made sense for me but also I’m in a position where you know my overhead and my business is low because it's just me, I don't need a bunch of equipment. It's given me immense freedom but when I have to start all the way over with an animal and to do the exam and watch a horse trot again and all of those things, it's a lot of extra time and I needed to account for that too. It really keeps people using the care more frequently. It's hey if you missed our interval you're paying for two adjustments anyway you should have seen me in between.

Dr. O- Well that's kind of what we do on Tuesdays. Tuesday is our free spinal check day and so basically a new patient can come in on Tuesday and get checked to see if chiropractic might help their pet or their horse or steer or whatever. And that's no charge on Tuesdays from one to six, no appointments, they have to just show up and wait their turn and then of course we adjust and it is the lowest price we ever charge. It's not discounted but it is the lowest price we have to charge. Any other time is at least twice as much as that. It's amazing how convenient Tuesdays become for people to get here.

Dr. Milton-McDonald- Well you know when I was working at the other clinic, doing this on the side. So they were getting me because I had it written out of my non-compete, which means when I was trying to pay for my course so those funds were coming straight back to me, I was having to do that on my time. So those clients were used to giving me evenings and weekends and now that time is my kids. So at first people would say well um you know i need a 5:30 or 6 o'clock appointment and I would say I'm sorry I work regular hours now. Well I worked, I worked and I'm like okay well you know let's get it set up for your next day off and yeah it's amazing how suddenly we can find time. I'm not having any problem with people scheduling at all and boundaries were (are) hard to set and honestly I don't love the financial portion of what I do in fact a lot of times, I'm getting in the truck and the people are like Dr. Milton we haven't paid you yet, oh thank you for reminding me, especially when you get those big win cases I'm like well bye, my work here's done.

Dr. O- So cool um what do you wish all the animal owners knew about animal chiropractic other than prevention?

Dr. Milton-McDonald- That's probably my number one, is that if we use it the right way we can prevent a lot of these things. My number two is, if you have an injury, see your regular vet and then see me right away, even if you don't think you need me. Even if your regular vet says definitely no spinal manipulation, it is dangerous. I'm not going to do something that puts an animal in danger and that's why it's important for the owners to seek out someone that's certified and well trained but unfortunately there's a lot of veterinarians who still don't know enough. To think that we're gonna hurt animals and that's just not the case and a lot of times even if I’m not adjusting the area where the veterinarian is concerned about. If I adjust other areas I can make a huge improvement in how the body is functioning and how the body can heal itself. So I wish that every time there was an injury, they would bring the animal to me right away versus waiting until they figure out something's not healing right or to the rehab phase because again then we've got a lot of backtracking work to do. We're behind.

Dr. O- Can you imagine being in your busy equine practice when you first started, having an animal chiropractor triaging every animal before you saw it?

Dr. Milton-McDonald- I laugh now and say I would have injected a lot less hop.

Dr. O- You would have injected a lot fewer animals. You would have had because if we as veterinary professionals embraced animal chiropractic and said let's try this instead. You mentioned earlier that you said I don't know that this is going to take care of everything but let's try it.

Dr. Milton-McDonald- Absolutely yeah

Dr. O- So some of these busy clinics that now have three four week waits to get in. Imagine if you just had a certified animal chiropractor adjusting everything, just adjust them. Let's try this adjustment, you know what he doesn't look any better you need to go inside and see the doctor. Or oh he looks better, he's moving better, he peed, he pooped. You know what, let's see how he does come back in three days and maybe as a profession we could get a whole better work life balance.

Dr. Milton-McDonald- You know I say all the time how I injected a lot of horses that probably didn't need it. I use the phrase, you can't do better if you don't know better and so it's really important for us to keep educating where we can and to tread carefully on not overstepping our boundaries and not doing it in a way that, you know you catch a lot more flies with honey right. So doing it in a way of not you've been doing it wrong but hey maybe there's something else. Which is how I fell into chiropractic and although I used it for myself and knew I had huge results, I came with a bit of a chip on my shoulder like I don't really know that we're gonna do that. I think we're really successfully realigning the spine of a thousand pound animal. I don't know that you know that these great huge claims that are being made about chiropractic are real but maybe I can help some animals sometime. I mean that is how I came with the chip and so and I wasn't all that receptive. In fact the first patient I adjusted I thought I killed him, he was my own horse and my 36 year old horse. I thought I killed him by adjusting his sacrum, so you know I do think that would make a difference. I mean a ton of front limb lameness, I can make a huge difference with a lower neck adjustment. I mean it is shocking to me, pretty regularly and I have some horses now that stay on a pretty regular rotation because they develop a front end lameness, if we don't keep them adjusted. Why am I here, why am I here today, just on our maintenance, now they're like well we stay on a two to three month cycle because if we go three months in one day of course it's laming up front.

Dr. O- I have a horse we did every two weeks because C7 on the right was a half a second. I mean she knew that C7 on the right was a half a second.

Dr. Milton-McDonald- Yeah

Dr. O- I can't win if I’m a half a second off, so get in there and do your thing. I made the mistake one time, I was telling you, I really feel bad all I did was adjust that one vertebra and I'm gonna charge you full price but I almost feel bad. She was like oh no doc, don't feel bad okay, it's a half a second don't worry I'll make this back this weekend, here. So anyway it's awesome well thank you so much any other words of wisdom?

Dr. Milton-McDonald- i don't i don't think i have anything else i think i'm the hardest part for me is to trust my hands um and with time that has become a lot easier but um trusting my hands even even i struggle with that sometimes still um trust my hands and and do the best i can for each patient

Dr. O- so you know if you ever need some CE come on over we're not that far away.

Dr. Milton-McDonald- when these kids aren't so little i'll be able to come a lot more hopefully we'll see you at the um AVCA this year

Dr. O- okay we'll be there um we we have base camp coming up um and we'll do some stuff with um and base camp is a lot of philosophy more than what the AVCA has

Dr. Milton-McDonald- yeah it seems like an awesome opportunity

Dr. O- I'm talking a lot about using my eyes, I use my eyes a lot now. I talked about that but not necessarily like a cookbook but to know how joints are not moving because in some of those horses the worst adjustment we can give is the one we don't give.

Dr. Milton-McDonald- Yeah

Dr. O- So anyway thank you so much for your time.

Dr-Milton-McDonald- Thank you

Dr. O- It's amazing I haven't seen you for a long time you know, there's another one we put up in one of our marketing talks that we talked about you. You would text Dr. Amy and you had a horse and I said go back and recheck the atlas and you texted that tell Dr. O thank you for making me recheck the atlas.

Dr. Milton-McDonald- I can't forget that lesson now.

Dr. O- Just if the atlas is working the rest of the body can heal itself. If it's not because everybody out there remember body heals one way- above, down and inside out. That's the way it happens. Thank you so much for your time, have an amazing day and we'll talk to you later thank you bye now bye-bye.

And as Paul Harvey used to say “Now you know…the Rest of the Story Have a Good Day.”

Dr. O

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If you are in the Santa Fe, Texas area and would like to get in contact with Dr. Milton-McDonald, you can reach her at the following:

Dr. Michelle Milton-McDonald


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