Our Animal Rehabilitation Center team always provides your pet with the most effective available therapies to relieve pain, restore mobility, and accelerate healing. We are currently offering shockwave therapy, which is an exciting new modality. Although this therapeutic treatment has an intimidating name, your pet will experience amazing musculoskeletal benefits. Learn five facts about shockwave therapy, and consider whether your pet’s health could benefit from this powerful therapeutic modality.

#1: Pet shockwave therapy was originally developed for human lithotripsy

You may believe that shockwave therapy is some “future shock” medical treatment we dream will benefit our grandchildren, but this technology has been available since the 1970s. Shockwave therapy (i.e., extracorporeal shockwave therapy [ESWT]) was originally developed to pulverize mineralized deposits in the human urinary system, allowing pain-free, nonsurgical stone passage. During this usage, experts observed shockwave therapy’s ability to improve bone healing, relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and speed soft tissue and wound healing. Recently, equine and canine veterinarians began using shockwave therapy for animals’ various musculoskeletal conditions.

#2: Shockwave therapy uses sound waves to transfer energy to your pet’s tissues

Through an external handpiece, shockwave therapy sends focused sound waves to targeted tissue, similar to ultrasound. However, while ultrasound relies on reflection and absorption to create an image, shockwave therapy operates at a lower frequency, minimizing tissue absorption. When the high-pressure and high-velocity shockwaves encounter tissue density (i.e., muscle to bone) changes, they release energy, which triggers the body’s cellular repair response—stimulating new blood supply and growth factors to the damaged area, and promoting tissue regeneration and repair. Unlike ultrasound and laser therapy, shockwave therapy can penetrate deeper—up to 110 centimeters—reaching otherwise inaccessible joints such as the hip. 

#3: Your pet may need sedation, although shockwave therapy is noninvasive

Although shockwave therapy units have traditionally required sedation, newer units—such as the unit we have—can now deliver sound waves to deep tissue with no need for sedation. These units are quiet and well-tolerated by most patients. Sedation may occasionally be needed, such as when shockwave therapy is needed over a pet’s painful joint, to prevent them from experiencing discomfort or distress. Always keep in mind that our Animal Rehabilitation Center team ensures your pet is comfortable throughout all treatments.

To ensure good contact between the handpiece and the target tissue area, your veterinary professional may have to clip your pet’s hair before applying ultrasound gel to their skin, which enhances sound wave transmission. Each shockwave treatment area takes between 5 and 10 minutes to complete, depending on the tissue’s depth and location. Because the treatment time is short, you are not required to schedule an extended appointment. 

#4: Shockwave therapy is beneficial for various pet conditions

Shockwave therapy is safe and effective—with more than 20 current, evidence-based uses for dogs and horses. Shockwave therapy’s use has spread in companion animal medicine and rehabilitation, and so has the modality’s corresponding research—revealing increasingly more applications for this life-enhancing treatment. Currently, veterinary professionals use shockwave therapy to treat these common conditions:

  • Bone fractures
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Elbow dysplasia
  • Tendon and ligament strain
  • Cranial cruciate ligament rupture
  • Osteochondritis dissecans (OCD) lesions
  • Back pain
  • Intervertebral disc disease
  • Wounds
  • Shoulder instability 
  • Lick granulomas 

Shockwave therapy’s accelerated healing and pain relief can reduce or eliminate some pets’ analgesic medication need, which is enormously beneficial to senior pets or those with impaired kidney or liver function.

#5: Pets may quickly experience clinical improvement

Shockwave therapy’s efficacy is impressive. Depending on your pet’s condition, they may have positive results after a single session. However, you must remember that a shockwave treatment initiates your pet’s healing process within the tissues—the therapy itself does not cure your pet’s condition. Therefore, your pet may not display improvement signs—bearing more weight on their affected limb, or moving with less stiffness—for days or weeks after having shockwave therapy. While we understand that you are eager for your pet’s adverse condition to dissipate, we encourage you to think about the time after your pet undergoes shockwave therapy treatment as a postoperative recovery period—restricting your pet’s physical activity, and monitoring them for improvement. As after other therapeutic processes, your pet may initially be sore—however, their slight discomfort typically resolves within a few days.

Although shockwave therapy is an effective stand-alone treatment for many conditions, our Animal Rehabilitation Center team firmly believes this therapeutic modality is most beneficial when combined with other therapies, such as underwater treadmill use, therapeutic exercises, and manual therapy. To learn more about shockwave therapy, or to find out if this therapeutic modality is right for your pet, contact their Animal Rehabilitation Center veterinarian. If you are a new client, please complete the intake form, so we may get to know your pet, and begin the scheduling process.