Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) for Animals and Pets
Why Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) for animals and pets? Why not HBOT for animals and pets? What’s the difference between animals/pets, and humans? Very little. We’re all mammals, or at least most pets are mammals. (I’ll exclude goldfish, snakes, salamanders, insects, turtles, and the like for the moment.) There is a general principle in veterinary medicine that if a process is found in at least a few species of mammals, it is found in all species. Imagine if this weren’t true, veterinarians would have to learn about different disease processes in cats, dogs, pigs, goats, horses, hamsters, etc. and the treatment would be different in each species. This would be unbelievably complex. Fortunately, nature doesn’t work this way. Generally, disease processes are similar across species and even larger classes of living organisms.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) Animal Experiments
Our confirmation about the similarity of disease processes in different species can be found in the voluminous Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy animal experiments that have been done in the past 50 years. In countless experiments, HBOT has been shown to have positive effects on basic disease processes across multiple different species. In 1999, Dr. Harch argued this at the World Federation of Neurological Societies Meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark [Harch PG. Generic inhibitory drug effect of hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) on reperfusion injury (RI). Eur J Neurol, 2000;7(Suppl 3):150]. In his presentation, he collected the studies that had been done on Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy in acute injuries that resulted in inflammation. What he found was that regardless of whether HBOT was delivered immediately before, during, or after the injury to the animal, and regardless of the animal species used (dog, rabbit, rat, mouse, pig), or the injury model in the experiment (heart attack, stroke, the bends of the brain, carbon monoxide, cardiac arrest), the results were all the same: HBOT had a dramatic impact. What it strongly suggested was that HBOT acted like a generic drug on basic disease processes in man. Dr. Harch was using this argument to convince doctors that the application of HBOT in animals should apply to humans. For the sake of this article, Dr. Harch’s scientific paper argues for the use of HBOT across the animal spectrum. In other words, the evidence is already there to use HBOT in animals. After all, that’s where the scientific investigations began that led to many of the uses of HBOT we now have in humans.
Application of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) in Animals
So what evidence exists for the use of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) in animals? To answer this question, we need to look no further than the horse veterinary world. At the Alamo Pintado Equine Medical Center in California, veterinarian Doug Herthel pioneered the application of HBOT to horses with the use of the first horse HBOT chamber. Since 2000, Dr. Herthel has successfully applied HBOT to a variety of equine conditions. This practice has now spread to other centers in the country, most notably equine hospitals in Lexington, Kentucky where a horse HBOT unit exists in the ICU of one hospital. One of the newer applications of HBOT in this ICU is for “redback foals”, birth injured foals that are struggling to survive due to lack of blood flow and oxygen to the brain. Preliminary application of HBOT to some of these newborn horses has resulted in revival and salvage of the horse. Surprisingly, this was done to human babies in 1963 and 54% of the babies were successfully resuscitated. Unfortunately, the only way a baby can get this in the United States today is if the baby is an expensive thoroughbred horse.
Beyond horses, however, HBOT is finding much wider applications in veterinary medicine. For example, veterinarians are applying HBOT to cats and dogs with a wide range of serious infections, bone conditions, snake bites, trauma, swelling from a variety of causes, and surgical trauma, including sepsis, shock, etc. Essentially, many of the same conditions that humans are treated for with HBOT are being used with animals.
Interestingly, as mentioned above, nearly all of these applications in humans were first treated experimentally in animals. It is only appropriate that HBOT should now be applied to animals clinically. The rising application of HBOT to animal diseases has spawned a veterinary hyperbaric medical association. Hopefully, the greater application to animals will help spur additional applications to humans.