Hyperbaric oxygen therapy has been available to humans and pets for many decades, but this treatment modality’s use has been limited to a few conditions that have proven to respond well. Although this natural, drug-free treatment is still not widely used, many veterinary specialty centers have discovered that hyperbaric oxygen therapy is beneficial to patients with severe conditions or those who cannot tolerate certain medications. Palm Valley Veterinary Center is one of few clinics worldwide that offers this treatment to pets, reducing their need for specialty care and harsh drugs that cause severe side effects. Learn about this unique therapeutic modality by reading our guide to hyperbaric oxygen therapy for pets.

How does hyperbaric oxygen therapy work for pets?

Oxygen’s normal concentration in the air is around 20% and exists at baseline atmospheric pressure. The body breathes in the oxygen and transports the element to various body tissues via hemoglobin in red blood cells, but the cells can have difficulty reaching into inflamed or damaged areas to support their repair. A hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) chamber provides 100% oxygen at two to three times normal atmospheric pressure, which dissolves the oxygen gas directly into the blood, bypassing the hemoglobin and red blood cells. The increased pressure also increases the distance the oxygen can travel by three to four times that of red blood cells, saturating damaged tissues with healing oxygen, rapidly improving various medical conditions.

What pet health conditions can benefit from hyperbaric oxygen therapy?

Veterinary professionals have used HBOT to treat countless conditions, including inflammation, swelling, and nerve damage. Oxygen stimulates rapid tissue repair, inhibits harmful microorganisms, and promotes lymphatic drainage and new blood vessel formation. The therapy is especially beneficial for seriously ill pets who are sensitive to certain drugs, have medical conditions that prevent the use of traditional treatments, suffer from drug-resistant infections, or whose owners prefer they receive natural therapeutics. A pet who receives HBOT is likely to have one these common conditions:

  • Skin and tissue wounds
  • Sepsis (i.e., blood infection)
  • Brain or spinal cord swelling
  • Nerve damage or pain
  • Burns and skin grafts
  • Head trauma
  • Pancreatitis
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Inflammatory joint disease
  • Cancer
  • Carbon monoxide toxicity
  • Anemia or blood loss

How often do pets need hyperbaric oxygen therapy treatments?

The more severe their condition, the more HBOT treatments a pet will need. Treatment protocols are highly individualized and often adjusted according to response. During a treatment, a pet is secured inside the chamber for 60 to 90 minutes and monitored closely throughout. Treatments can be repeated several times daily, once daily, or every other day until the condition improves or resolves. When determining a schedule for your pet’s treatments, our team will start with an established protocol that has worked for similar cases, then adjust as needed. 

Is hyperbaric oxygen therapy safe for pets?

HBOT has a long safety track record. However, this treatment modality does pose some risks. The professional operating the chamber must receive specialized safety training, because oxygen, especially in a pressurized state, is highly flammable. When a qualified team member properly uses and maintains the equipment, the therapy is safe for almost all conditions. However, pets with certain lung disorders should not receive HBOT, because the pressure can worsen their condition. Seizures can theoretically occur when a patient’s brain experiences overoxygenation, which may affect a pet who has a fever or who has been given certain drugs. However, such an occurrence is rare, and patients who do experience a seizure do not suffer any lasting effects. Generally, HBOT has few to no side effects, making it a safe treatment option for your four-legged friend. 

Can hyperbaric oxygen therapy be used with other veterinary medical treatments?

HBOT is actually most effective when used in combination with other therapies, but the treatment can also be effective as a sole therapeutic for cases in which drugs are contraindicated. Studies show that HBOT can increase the effectiveness of antibiotics, chemotherapy, radiation, and other medications by delivering them to their target more efficiently, working with the body’s natural healing powers. 

Our Palm Valley Veterinary Center team is proud of the high-quality medicine, world-class facility, and advanced technology we offer our clients and their pets. HBOT is a natural therapeutic modality that helps speed healing and recovery from many diseases, injuries, and conditions. To determine whether your four-legged friend could benefit from HBOT or to learn more about this treatment strategy, schedule an appointment with our Palm Valley Veterinary Center team.