Pulsed Electromagnetic Field Therapy (PEMF) for Dogs & Cats
With pets living longer and longer lives these days, the incidence of injuries and chronic pain has also increased. Treating chronic pain is best handled with a multi-modal approach and intervention as soon as pain begins to cause increased sensitivity. While oral medications certainly have a place in pain management, adding in non-pharmacologic treatment such as massage, stretching, and laser therapy aids the process and can help with reducing dosing required to manage pain.
Targeted pulsed electromagnetic field therapy (PEMF) is one of the tools that has recently gained popularity. We’ll review how this newer therapy works and how it can be implemented in the pain management tool kit.
What Is Pulsed Electromagnetic Field Therapy (PEMF)?
Pulsed electromagnetic field therapy targets tissues through the use of electromagnetic waves at low frequencies, resulting in healing and pain relief. This is different from electric stimulation (also known as E-stim or TENS), as E-stimulation is dependent on a current that is delivered to the tissue to create local pain relief. PEMF provides relief through the detection of the low electromagnetic frequency energy made by sick and injured cells. When the emitted electromagnetic wave is sensed by local tissue, cellular changes take place that lead to an increase in energy production, which in turn creates vasodilation and increases blood flow to the target area. This increased circulation delivers anti-inflammatory cells to the area, which aids in decreasing pain, helps with healing, and decreases swelling. In addition, beta endorphins, which are our body’s own pain-relieving chemicals, are emitted through the cellular changes in response to PEMF treatment.
A key benefit of PEMF therapy is its lack of difficulty. Many of these devices simply have to be turned on and off at specific times – or will automatically turn off when treatment time is over.
A cat receiving PEMF therapy.
Treatment is something that pet parents can do on their own with the initial guidance of a veterinarian. These devices are affordable and allow the pet parent to play more of an active role in their pet’s treatment, rather than depending solely on medications and modalities that can only be performed by a professional.
Targeted PEMF therapy is suitable for many patients, even those with underlying disease processes like cancer. More common uses for PEMF in the veterinary world are for osteoarthritis pain, intervertebral disc disease, wound healing, bone healing, and even internal inflammatory conditions like IBD and pancreatitis. One company has even shown significant scientific evidence that their PEMF therapy product aids in calming dogs with anxiety disorders.
Is PEMF Painful for Pets?
Treatment with PEMF is not painful and is very well tolerated by both cats and dogs. The most challenging part is keeping pets in the same position for the duration of treatment.
How Long Does Treatment Take?
Treatment times vary depending on the area being treated, the reason, and the species. In general, a single area treatment takes about 15 minutes. A PEMF device can be held in place or simply placed on the patient for the duration; some companies even have special shirts or harnesses with attachments for the device. When starting treatment, the PEMF device is used multiple times a day for the first few weeks, then scaled back to once or twice daily as maintenance. There are generally no side effects. It also should be noted that it can take up to a week of treatment before any benefit is observed.
A dog receives therapy for back pain.
Contraindications of PEMF Treatment
While PEMF treatment is not specifically contraindicated for patients with cancer, it is still best to check with your veterinarian first. Because of the magnets involved in creating the electromagnetic field, it is absolutely contraindicated for patients who have pacemakers. Additionally, PEMF therapy cannot be used on pregnant pets.
Treatment with targeted PEMF therapy provides yet another modality to help manage pain in older pets. It is an FDA-approved treatment that is painless, affordable, and very easy to implement into a pain management protocol. Its ease of use makes it worth discussing with your veterinarian to see if it may help your pet.