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What is Shockwave Therapy?

Shockwave therapy has been successfully used in humans to treat urological and orthopedic conditions, and by veterinarians to treat musculoskeletal injuries and conditions, as well as provide therapy for the healing of skin conditions and chronic wound management in horses. It is more recently being applied to small animals including cats. 

Shockwave therapy, or extracorporeal shockwave therapy, (ESWT), employs electrohydraulic technology to generate high energy sound waves that penetrate tissues and initiate the body's own healing. Healing is initiated when high intensity sound waves cause body tissues to improve vascularization and circulation to tissues as well as collagen and reduce inflammation and calcium buidups. These processes help the body to heal damaged tissues. In addition, ESWT may activate the release of serotonin which reduces pain. ESWT is usually used in conjunction with other physical therapy methods and traditional veterinary medicine. Although this therapy is relatively new to small animal practices it is available in most major centers and your veterinarian can direct you to a therapist if it would prove beneficial to your cat's condition.

Shockwave Therapy Procedure in Cats

Prior to treatment with ESWT a complete physical examination will be conducted by a veterinarian, including x rays, and possibly blood and urine tests, to ensure correct diagnosis of the condition being treated and ensure the overall health of your cat prior to the use of anesthesia. 

Your cat will be sedated and/or put under short-acting general anesthetic for ESWT treatment, as the equipment used is loud and can be frightening to your cat. In addition, there is discomfort and pain associated with the procedure. If used in conjunction with surgery, your cat may already be under general anaesthetic for this process. ESWT equipment includes a device where sound waves are generated, and a wand or probe that directs the sound waves to targeted tissue. The device is set for the appropriate strength and number of pulses and delivered via the probe at the surface of the skin. The area to be treated is shaved and gel applied to the skin. The gel ensures that where the probe touches the skin there is no air between the probe and the skin surface which would interfere with the transmission of sound waves. The wand is applied to the targeted area and high pressure acoustic pulses are transmitted through the skin and soft tissue, the energy is then released to targeted tissues where energy interacts with cells and tissues to affect healing. This usually takes under 5 minutes per treatment site, although it varies depending on the dosage required.

The treatment may need to be repeated 1-3 times two to three weeks apart. For treatment of osteoarthritis, treatment may be repeated annually or semi annually.

Efficacy of Shockwave Therapy in Cats

Shockwave therapy achieves best result when used in conjunction with physical therapy and traditional veterinary medicine. It may need to be repeated in order for desired results to be achieved.

Shockwave Therapy Recovery in Cats

Your cat may experience discomfort following shockwave therapy. It is important to ensure your pet's exercise is restricted following this therapy. Your pet may become more active after treatment due to a temporary anesthetic effect which can cause them to overexert themselves. Results may be seen right away or may take several days to manifest. The process may need to be repeated in the short term or may be required on an annual basis. Follow up with your veterinarian to determine the effectiveness of healing and the appropriate treatment schedule is recommended. 

Cost of Shockwave Therapy in Cats

Treatment requires specialized equipment and may cost between $200-$300 per treatment site. This includes the cost of physical exam, tests, sedation and anesthesia, if required.

Cat Shockwave Therapy Considerations

Shockwave therapy should be used in conjunction with other veterinary therapy for best effect. ESWT at high strengths may be capable of damaging tissue, so care should be taken to ensure appropriate dosage by a trained therapist. Care must be taken during the therapy to avoid heart, brain, lungs, intestines and vascular structures. As this therapy can have an anesthetic effect on your pet they may be prone to overexerting themselves post treatment and aggravating an injury. Care should be taken to ensure movement is restricted until after this effect wears off. 

Cats with circulatory problems may experience bruising, or if immune disorders are present your pet may not respond well, since this therapy relies on the body's own immune responses to be effective. Cats with these conditions may not be good candidates for this therapy.

There may be some bruising where the probe is applied but this is usually not significant.

Shockwave Therapy Prevention in Cats

Providing your cat with a safe environment where they are unlikely to experience trauma, and ensuring they have adequate exercise, and a healthy diet so they do not become obese is important. Obesity in cats is a condition which aggravates musculoskeletal disorders, that may require treatment with ESWT.