Pulsed shortwave electromagnetic field therapy increases quality of life in canines with symptoms of osteoarthritics

Vet Med Sci. 2024 May;10(3):e1408. doi: 10.1002/vms3.1408.


Background: Joint stiffness, lameness and reduced activity levels are common inflammatory responses observed in canines and have significant impact on quality of life (QOL). The symptoms are often ascribed to osteoarthritis (OA), for which the standard treatment is systemic anti-inflammatories, but pharmacologic intervention can have significant short-term and long-term side effects.

Objectives: Test the efficacy of a Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-cleared pulsed shortwave therapy (PSWT) device as a means to modulate vagus nerve activity and initiate a systemic anti-inflammatory response to determine its ability to improve functionality and the QOL of canines with inflammatory symptoms commonly associated with OA.

Methods: A randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled 14-day study of 60 dogs with a presumptive prior diagnosis of OA in at least one limb joint. Two outcomes assessing changes in the dog's QOL and functionality were measured: subjectively determined changes in eight behaviours associated with discomfort and objectively determined changes in passive range of motion (PROM). The device was secured near the cervico-thoracic region of the dog's spine. PROM measures were taken at baseline and at the end of study. Behavioural measures were taken daily.

Results: Forty-nine animals completed the study. No negative side effects were reported. Average subjective discomfort scores for the treatment group (N = 26) were reduced from 3.74 to 2.10 (44%), compared to no improvement in the placebo group (N = 23) over the study period (p = 0.0001). Average PROM scores increased by 5.51 (4.59-6.23) degrees relative to the placebo group (p < 0.01). Ninety-six per cent of the treatment group showed either increased PROM or improved behavioural changes or both, compared to 4% for the placebo group (p < 0.01). Most changes occurred within the first 8 days of treatment.

Conclusions: PSWT applied at the level of the cervico-thoracic spine to target the vagus nerve may have the potential to improve QOL in dogs manifesting behaviours commonly associated with OA.

Keywords: arthritics and degenerative joint disease; canine; quality of life; range of motion.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial, Veterinary

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dog Diseases* / therapy
  • Dogs
  • Electromagnetic Fields
  • Osteoarthritis* / therapy
  • Osteoarthritis* / veterinary
  • Quality of Life
  • Short-Wave Therapy* / veterinary
  • United States