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Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment for Pets

AVSC offers hyperbaric oxygen treatment for dogs and cats. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is the delivery of 100% oxygen under pressure. The validity of this therapy and its healing properties has been recognized in humans for decades. Basic scientific and clinical studies have been published documenting the benefits of HBOT in humans and in animals. There are more and more publications involving companion animals every day. AVSC — formerly Veterinary Neurology and Pain Management Center of New England — was the first veterinary facility in New England to offer hyperbaric oxygen treatments for pets.

Physiological Effects of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy OR… How it works

At the pressures used in the hyperbaric chamber, the veterinary patient’s plasma and tissue oxygen level is15 times greater than is normally present with 100% oxygen at sea level. With HBOT, oxygen diffuses through tissues even when blood supply to the area is significantly compromised. When there are constricted or compromised vessels, plasma tends to flow through more readily than red blood cells, which normally carry the oxygenated blood. When plasma is exposed to hyperbaric oxygen it can carry up to 20 times more oxygen to tissues alone without the red blood cells being involved. Therefore, small compromised capillaries can deliver oxygen to the tissues they supply even when only plasma can pass through them. Oxygen delivered by HBOT can make the difference between cell death or cell recovery.

How Hyperbaric Therapy (HBOT) Can Help

There are more than 15 disease conditions approved by the American College of Hyperbaric Medicine and the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society for which HBOT is known to be of benefit in humans. Research studies have shown the benefit of HBOT treatment even beyond what is approved by the insurance companies. Many of these conditions also occur in veterinary patients. There are over 50 of these “unapproved indications or conditions” where HBOT may have significant benefit as an adjunct to conventional therapy and have been proven to be beneficial during experimental trials.

Central nervous system indications for hyperbaric oxygen therapy (many more possibilities not listed):

  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Traumatic spinal cord injury
  • Compressive spinal cord disease (IVDD)
  • Traumatic peripheral nerve injuries (brachial plexus injury)
  • Strokes (i.e. cerebellar infarcts)
  • Fibrocartilagenous emboli (FCE)
  • Sudden hearing loss from trauma or medication
  • Anesthetic complications
  • Cortical blindness
  • Post CPR neurological impairment
  • Diskospondylitis
  • May help with “idiopathic” facial paralysis and old dog vestibular disease
  • There are reports anecdotally in humans and animals that it may help those patients with “no deep pain”, help speed recovery after spinal surgery, or help in those instances where surgery is not an option!
  • Granulomatous Meningoencephalitis (GME) and other inflammatory brain disease symptoms by decreasing inflammation without concurrent medications.
  • There are a number of studies showing that hyperbaric treatment appears to be successful in relieving neuropathic pain for an extended period of time.
  • HBOT decreases edema and inflammation which help reduce pain.

Other conditions in veterinary medicine currently being treated with HBOT often in addition to conventional therapies:

  • Wound healing – Large wounds that would take months to heal can heal much more rapidly and cleanly, saving money and lives.
  • Abscesses – Oxygen and antibiotic penetration into areas otherwise poorly penetrable.
  • Fractures – Post fracture pain, swelling and infection are helped as well as fibroblast stimulation and healing.
  • Thermal Burns – Healing is improved, infection diminished, increased survival rates overall for burn victims is proven.
  • Skin grafts and flaps – Flaps and grafts heal better and take better without infection or excessive inflammation. Neovascularization and decreased inflammation are tremendous help in healing.
  • Spider bites – Initial swelling and necrosis does not occur or reverses rapidly with HBOT intervention.
  • Osteomyelitis – Proven improved fibroblast function, antibiotic levels in bone and healing.
  • Poisonings (carbon monoxide, cyanide etc.) – Oxygen quickly replaces CO and other noxious gasses. A common use in human ERs.
  • Lyme Disease– The organism cannot survive the hyperbaric environment
  • Hepatic, renal and bowel inflammation – Post-operative inflammation of bowel, post-bloat or post-obstruction occurs and diminishes chances of sepsis and decreases effusion.
  • Decreases reperfusion injury
  • Ileus
  • Pancreatitis, particularly when associated with severe edema and hemorrhage- reduction in pain, swelling of pancreas and improved healing.
  • Abdominal sepsis, particularly when associated with mixed bacterial infection: decreased inflammation, improved penetration of antibiotics to all areas of bowel and within peritoneal fluid, improved healing.
  • Pyothorax, particularly when associated with mixed bacterial infection – same as peritonitis
  • Post traumatic or ischemic shock or following any acute hypoxic episodes
  • Severe sinusitis or septic rhinitis- antibiotic delivery improves, inflammation goes down, pain is reduced
  • Aortic embolization in both cats and dogs- pure oxygen delivery and decreased reperfusion injury
  • Cardiac disease where ischemia is present and post traumatic and reperfusion myocardial injury
  • Increase in the body’s inherent stem cell production: many applications for the future….

What happens during the hyperbaric treatment?

During hyperbaric oxygen therapy, the patient is placed safely and comfortably in a large chamber with 100% oxygen at pressure 1.5 to 3 times that of normal atmospheric pressure. Most patients appear calm and relaxed during hyperbaric oxygen therapy (and many even fall asleep).

During the treatment, oxygen is absorbed by the blood plasma, cerebrospinal fluid in the brain and spinal cord, and in lymph and other body fluids delivering more healing oxygen to tissues for cell repair and metabolism.

When the treatment ends, the chamber’s pressure is slowly returned to normal, and your pet can return immediately to normal activities. For postoperative pets or those being treated for other conditions, we will advise you about the appropriate level of activity. Typically treatments are given once to twice a day (with at least 4 hours between treatments) for a total of 4 to 10 treatments on average. The total number of treatments necessary varies according to the type of treatment and the patient’s response.

For Referring Veterinarians

Over the past several years, HBOT has had an increased positive presence in veterinary medicine with many phenomenal results being observed and documented. There is no question that the addition of this treatment modality will enhance our ability to successfully treat many disease conditions. New uses involving stem cells are also arising.

Currently, there are only a handful of veterinary hospitals in the U.S. that offer HBOT treatment for small animals. Working with you and your cases, we can now offer your patients an option we have not offered in the past. We need to work together on these cases, as HBOT is often adjunctive therapy. Once you see the results, you will truly understand. Please come visit and call whenever you are curious if your case may benefit from HBOT.

Interested in more stories and information? Visit the Hyperbaric Veterinary Medicine site