From road traffic accidents to falling from heights – many scenarios can result in a fracture or broken bone in dogs and cats. With the advances in veterinary medicine, the treatment of fractures marks huge innovations. In this article, we will discuss the use of PEMF therapy in managing broken bones in pets – dogs and cats.

 Fractures In Dogs & Cats

A fracture is a break in the bone’s continuity. While all bones can be broken, in pets, the most common fractures include the thigh bone (femur), pelvis, spine, jaw, and skull.

What Causes Fractures In Dogs And Cats?

Trauma is the most common cause of broken bones in pets. It can include a number of events – from fights to road accidents to falling from height. Fractures can also be the result of diseases (infections, cancers) that weakens the bone.

Are There Different Types Of Bone Breaks In Pets?

Yes, there are different types of bone breaks and different classification methods. In general, fractures classify as:

  • Incomplete (when the bone does not break entirely)
  • Complete (when the bone breaks into at least two pieces)
    – Simple – a clean break that results in two bone pieces
    – Comminuted – several bone fragments misaligned from each other
    – Compound – a piece of broken bone penetrated the skin

What Is The Treatment For Pet Fractures?

Simple fractures can be managed using casts or splints. However, in most cases, vets recommend reconstructive surgery (the medical term for the procedure is osteosynthesis). Based on the type and location of the fracture, the vet will use screws, nails, pins, plates, wires, or external frames to connect and secure the bone pieces.

Following the surgery, there is an extensive recovery period. Physical therapy is an essential part of recovery. Recently, pulsed electromagnetic field therapy, or simply PEMF therapy, has become another popular option.

PEMF Therapy For Fractures

The interest in magnetic and electromagnetic fields for therapeutic purposes began after WWII. Then, in 1950, Japanese scientists demonstrated that bones have an electric potential. This finding opened a new option – using electric stimulation for bone growth and fracture management. In 1974, PEMF was used to induce bone repair in dogs.

Later on, a 1977 study proved the therapeutic potential of PEMF in non-union fractures in humans. In 1979, another group of scientists showed that PEMF promotes bone healing in rabbits. After two years, in 1979, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of PEMF stimulation in the treatment of non-union fractures.

In a 1993 study on horses, it was demonstrated that PEMF accelerates bone repair during the early healing stages. In 2005 and 2015, the same conclusion was made while using rat models. In a 2014 study on rats, it was confirmed that PEMF supports the healing of osteoporotic fractures.

A 2016 human study showed that PEMF reduces bone fracture healing time by as much as 35-60% (depending on the fracture type and location).

Overall, in a recent 2022 study, it was concluded that PEMF therapy is beneficial for the management of fractures.

But, What Is PEMF Therapy?

Pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) therapy is a specific form of electrotherapy based on using pulsed electromagnetic fields with different frequencies. In simple terms, different cells in the body have different electrical charges (which additionally change when the cells are damaged).

PEMF creates new electrical fields inside the damaged cells, thus helping them go back to their normal and healthy electrical charges.

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How Does PEMF Therapy For Fracture Management Work?

Bone healing is a lengthy process that occurs in four often overlapping phases:

  • Fracture & Inflammation: Occurs right after the fracture and manifests with severe inflammation and damage of the surrounding blood vessels.
  • Angio-Mesenchymal Phase: During this phase, the body creates new blood vessels around the fracture site.
  • Bone Formation: Stem cells at the fracture site differentiate into cells responsible for bone formation, like osteoblasts and chondrocytes.
  • Bone Remodeling: The osteoblasts mature and produce collagen and calcium deposits, creating a new primary bone – also known as callus or woven bone.

Studies show that PEMF works on two levels – inhibiting the first inflammatory phase and promoting the second, third, and fourth healing phases.

What Are The Benefits Of PEMF Therapy For Fractures In Pets?

PEMF therapy is safe, risk-free, non-invasive, and practical. Here is a closer look at the benefits of PEMF therapy for fracture treatment:

  • Easy To Use: PEMF therapy devices are simple to use. All you need to do is follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Painless & Stress-Free: PEMF therapy is non-invasive and painless. Plus, it is performed at home, thus ensuring a stress-free experience for the pet.
  • No Side Effects: Up to date, there are no known side effects associated with the use of PEMF therapy in fracture treatment.
  • Affordable: PEMF therapy devices are available at an affordable price and can be used for a long time.
  • Multipurpose: After the fracture is managed, the PEMF therapy mat can be used for other issues such as sprains, stress, arthritis, etc.

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What Are The Drawbacks Of PEMF Therapy For Fractures In Pets?

When it comes to using PEMF therapy for fracture management, there are two main issues. First, it is not a standalone treatment. PEMF is used in conjunction with other approaches like surgery.

Second, there is no universal protocol for use regarding exposure duration and frequency. The exposure details are agreed upon in consultation with a vet and in accordance with the guidelines provided by the PEMF device manufacturer.

Are There Any PEMF Therapy Contraindications?

Yes, there are certain PEMF therapy contraindications. PEMF therapy should not be used in the treatment of fractures in:

  • Pets with fresh or actively bleeding injuries
  • Young puppies/kittens (<1 year) and pregnant bitches/queens
  • Dogs and cats with pacemakers

Conclusion

Fractures in dogs and cats are common. The golden standard for treatment is surgery in which the broken bone is re-aligned and stabilized using a variety of implants and devices.

Including PEMF therapy in the post-operative care plan is an excellent way to promote bone healing. This also helps shorten the recovery time, thus positively affecting the pet’s quality of life.

References:

  • Markov MS. Pulsed electromagnetic field therapy history, state of the art and future. The Environmentalist. 2007
  • Iwao Y. The Classic Fundamental Aspects of Fracture Treatment. Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research. 1977
  • Bassett CA, Pawluk RJ, Pilla AA. Augmentation of bone repair by inductively coupled electromagnetic fields. Science. 1974
  • Bassett CA, Pilla AA, Pawluk RJ. A Non-Operative Salvage of Surgically-Resistant Pseudarthroses and Non-Unions by Pulsing Electromagnetic Fields: A Preliminary Report. Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research. 1977
  • De Haas WG, Lazarovici MA, Morrison DM. The effect of low frequency magnetic fields on the healing of the osteotomized rabbit radius. Clin Orthop Relat Res. 1979
  • Daish C, Blanchard R, Fox K, Pivonka P, Pirogova E. The Application of Pulsed Electromagnetic Fields (PEMFs) for Bone Fracture Repair: Past and Perspective Findings. Annals of Biomedical Engineering. 2018
  • Cane V, Botti P, Soana S. Pulsed magnetic fields improve osteoblast activity during the repair of an experimental osseous defect. J Orthop Res. 1993
  • Midura R, Ibiwoye MO, Powell KA, Sakai Y, Doehring T, Grabiner MD, Patterson TE, Zborowski M, Wolfman A. Pulsed electromagnetic field treatments enhance the healing of fibular osteotomies. J Orthop Res. 2005
  • Yang HJ, Kim RY, Hwang SJ. Pulsed Electromagnetic Fields Enhance Bone Morphogenetic Protein-2 Dependent-Bone Regeneration. Tissue Eng Part A. 2015
  • Androjna C, Fort B, Zborowski M, Midura RJ. Pulsed electromagnetic field treatment enhances healing callus biomechanical properties in an animal model of osteoporotic fracture. Bio Electro Magnetics, Volume 35, Issue 6. 2014
  • Murray HB, Pethica BA. A follow-up study of the in-practice results of pulsed electromagnetic field therapy in the management of nonunion fractures. Orthopedic Research and Reviews. 2016
  • Di Bartolomeo M, Cavani F, Pellacani A, Grande A, Salvatori R, Chiarini L, Nocini R, Anesi A. Pulsed Electro-Magnetic Field (PEMF) Effect on Bone Healing in Animal Models: A Review of Its Efficacy Related to Different Type of Damage. Biology (Basel). 2022
  • Yuan J, Xin F, Jiang W. Underlying Signaling Pathways and Therapeutic Applications of Pulsed Electromagnetic Fields in Bone Repair. Cell Physiol Biochem. 2018
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About the author:

Ivana Crnec is a DVM and a licensed nutritionist. Over the years, she has participated in several international Zoo and Wildlife preservation projects. Also, she is a passionate writer and a devoted pet parent. Today, Ivana works as the lead editor of veterinarians.org.

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