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Hyperbaric oxygen therapy, HBOT, is conducted routinely in humans for the treatment of decompression sickness resulting from scuba diving and other diseases requiring high oxygen levels in the blood to treat. The process involves placing patients in an airtight chamber and increasing the atmospheric pressure, so that oxygen is dissolved in the blood and delivered to tissues at a high level. It has more recently been used in veterinary medicine to treat small animals for variety of diseases and disorders including wound healing and neurological disorders. It operates under the principle that inhaling and transmitting high levels of oxygen to the body's tissues aids the body's ability to heal.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy provides high oxygen concentration combined with an increase in air chamber pressure, which raises the plasma oxygen concentration to allow oxygen to diffuse into tissues at a higher rate than would be seen under normal circumstances. This higher rate of oxygen being delivered to tissues promotes healing.
Prior to treatment, your dog's general health will be evaluated, including ensuring that body temperature is normal, as increase body temperature can lead to an increase in oxygen uptake resulting in toxicity. It is important, as pure oxygen is being used, to ensure that there is no chance of a spark being created. Metal objects, including IV catheters, will be removed or covered with cotton bandaging. Your dog will be wetted down so that the chance of static electric shock or a spark igniting the pure oxygen is minimized.
Your dog will be placed inside a hyperbaric oxygen therapy chamber, on a soft blanket, during the treatment. These commercially available pet chambers are supplied with liquid oxygen tanks and have a pressurized tube or compartment where high-level oxygen and increased pressure can be delivered. The air pressure in the chamber is up to three times greater than normal and is supplied with pure oxygen. Pressure is gradually increased to 1 and a half to 3 atmospheres over a period of approximately 15 minutes. Treatment can then last from one to two hours. Decompression is also conducted gradually over a 15-minute time period.
Treatment is usually repeated twice a day until an improvement in the dog's condition is observed, at which time treatment can be discontinued. There is no discomfort to your dog during treatment. The usual course of treatment is from five to 10 days, with at least four hours between treatments.
This treatment is experimental and relatively new to veterinary medicine but is being increasingly used on pets. In pets, it has been reported as being useful for treating snake bites, infected wounds, and inflammation. The increase in oxygen level to tissues is felt to aid the body in healing. This treatment is relatively new and is still controversial. Evidence on effectiveness is still being determined, however, it is a plausible therapy and may be considered for veterinary treatment in some cases.
Side effects and recovery from HBOT are generally minimal. Ear problems, barotrauma, and visual disturbances may be experienced by HBOT patients.
Some patients may benefit from follow-up treatments. If your dog experiences illness after HBOT treatment you should contact your veterinarian for follow-up.
HBOT chambers are expensive and they are not available at all veterinary practices. Where available, HBOT treatment ranges from $125 to $200 per session. If effective at resolving your dog's condition, HBOT therapy may be more cost-effective than other traditional medical treatment such as surgery or expensive medications.
There is risk with the use of HBOT equipment because 100% pure oxygen is involved and there is a risk of fire if a spark is introduced in the chamber. Precautions such as covering metals, wetting down hair to prevent static electricity, and ensuring that no source of ignition is present, mitigates this risk.
Preventing wounds and injury in your dog that may become infected or result in severe inflammation requiring oxygen therapy, can be minimized by preventing accidents and receiving prompt veterinary treatment for injuries and disease.
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