What is Equine Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) for horses can benefit a variety of injuries and diseases. Sara Edwards CHT-V, a Board Certified Hyperbaric Veterinary Technologist at the Equine Hyperbaric Center of South Florida talks about the benefits of HBOT.

Q: How does Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) work?

A: HBOT works by increasing the level of oxygen in a horse’s tissues to assist healing and speed recovery. The horse enters a specialized chamber and receives 100% oxygen delivered under increased atmospheric pressure, approximately two to three times normal atmospheric pressure. Under these conditions, the amount of oxygen the horse breathes in is increased and so is the amount of oxygen dissolved in plasma. This is how the oxygen is able to reach injured or damaged tissues even if there is poor circulation.

Q: What type of injuries and diseases benefit from HBOT?

A: When used in conjunction with traditional medical therapies, HBOT can benefit a wide variety of diseases or injuries that produce severe inflammatory or infectious processes. From training injuries, slow healing wounds and chronic infections to neurological injuries, to name a few.

Q: Give us a few examples of the benefits of increased oxygen intake.

A: One common benefit is that HBOT decreases swelling and inflammation. This increases circulation and allows more oxygen to reach injured, oxygen-starved tissue. Another is HBOT’s ability to improve the function of white blood cells. White blood cells attack bacteria, viruses and germs that have found their way into the horse’s body. In addition, HBOT has been found to enhance the effectiveness of antibiotics and other traditional medical intervention.

Q: What about the patients? How do horses feel about getting into the chamber?

A: The chamber used at Equine Hyperbaric Center of South Florida is one of the largest equine chambers manufactured, about the size of a normal stall. The majority of horses show no reluctance to enter or remain in the chamber. And once in the chamber, they’re free to move around for the duration of the treatment which is about an hour. There are windows where the horses can look out but most simply relax and breath in the oxygen-rich air. Once the treatment ends, the horse is ready to resume his regular schedule whether that involves a trailer ride home or a short walk back to his stall at the clinic.

Q: Is there any risk involved with the procedure?

A: The chamber we use is FDA approved and is extremely safe. The horse is under constant video monitoring throughout their treatment and all of our technicians are certified and receive annual continuing education. Every measure is taken to assure the horse’s safety and as for the chamber itself, it undergoes certain weekly and monthly maintenance routines to confirm all systems are working properly.

Q: Why have I not heard more about HBOT?

A: Although hyperbaric oxygen therapy has long been common as a lifesaving treatment in human medicine, it’s relatively new to the horse world. Mainly because of the requirements necessary for treating horses. Equine oxygen chambers are large, heavy and very expensive and, therefore, are not yet readily available in many areas. We are extremely lucky here in South Florida to have such powerful technology available for our horses.