Hyperbaric chambers, generally used to treat divers with the bends, burn victims and people with traumatic injuries, are now being used to treat animals that have been bitten by rattlesnakes, hit by cars and those with infected wounds, among other things, according to veterinarian and professor Justin Shmalberg at the University of Florida's College of Veterinary Medicine.
"Any place we have swelling of tissue, we oftentimes are thinking about the hyperbaric chamber as something we could do to decrease that," he said.
There is little research on hyperbaric treatments and pets, although veterinarians who use the chambers note that most of the research for human hyperbaric treatments comes from trials done on rabbits and rats.
"I find that it's really very effective for any kind of trauma," added Dr. Andrew Turkell of Calusa Veterinary Center in Boca Raton, who like Shmalberg uses a device described as being about the size of a loveseat and manufactured in Florida by a Boca Raton company named Hyperbaric Veterinary Medicine. Turkell was the first doctor to sign a contract with Hyperbaric Veterinary Medicine, and estimates that he's used the chamber 750-800 times in the past year and a half.
Note: Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT), is the medical use of oxygen at a level higher than atmospheric pressure. The equipment required consists of a pressure chamber, which may be of rigid or flexible construction, and a means of delivering 100% oxygen. Operation is performed to a predetermined schedule by trained personnel who monitor the patient and make any adjustments needed on an individual basis.