In recent years, therapy using magnets has gained a following among pet owners. It is seen as a safe and simple method of treating various disorders, often producing positive results without side effects or much expense. While magnets are advertised to offer a number of benefits, many owners wonder whether they really work. And if they do, can your dog or cat benefit from magnetic field therapy?
Magnetic therapy is by no means “quackish.” The earth has a normal magnetic field. The cells of our bodies and our pets’ bodies also have a normal magnetic field that allow for proper functioning. NASA determined that rats in space that are not provided with a suitable magnetic field perished due to disrupted energy flow (altered calcium metabolism). While direct proof is hard to find, some holistic doctors attribute many of the illnesses we see in pets to the decline over the centuries in the earth’s normal magnetic field.
How Does It Work?
Magnets are believed to work by means of magnetic lines of force; units called gauss, measure the strength of the magnetic field. The higher the gauss number, the stronger the magnet. Magnets are used either as permanent magnets, also called static magnets, or as pulsed electromagnetic field magnets (PEMF). Static magnets come in bars, beads, or strips. Therapeutic permanent magnets usually range from 200 to 3000 gauss. PEMF uses a low frequency (at or below five kHz) pulsing current flow through a wire coil to create a magnetic field around the wire. The greater the amount of current flow, and the greater the number of turns of the wire, the greater the magnetic field that forms.
In people, PEMF is approved by the FDA for treating fractures that have failed to heal. Non- or low thermal pulsed radiofrequency (PRF) signals may also be used, and were originally used for the treatment of infections in people prior to the advent of antibiotics. Since the signals from PRF (13–40 MHz) have frequency components with sufficient amplitude to elicit a possible bioeffect over a broader band than PEMF signals, they may be preferred. This difference also allows PRF to be used for shorter periods of treatment time (30 minutes) than PEMF (one to four hours). Other uses include treatment of, avascular necrosis of the hip, osteoarthritis, and rotator cuff injuries. While there have been conflicting findings in studies examining chronic exposure to the magnetic frequencies of people exposed to power lines (50 to 60 Hertz), no toxic effects have been reported using magnetic therapy.
Magnets appear to heal the body by removing inflammation and restoring circulation. By increasing blood flow to a diseased site, increased nutrients are available for healing. In fracture healing, for example, the uses of magnetic fields increase the adherence of calcium ions to the blood clot formed at the site of the break. This allows proper formation of the callus that is necessary for fractures to heal properly.
In the Eastern view of healing, magnets help restore the energy flow of the body to allow healing and proper metabolism. This is similar to one of the theories used to explain the positive effects of acupuncture as well.
While magnets can be used in both dog and cat therapies, most commonly, dogs are treated with magnets due to their greater incidence of musculoskeletal injuries. In canine medicine, magnets are often used to aid in fracture healing and in the treatment of arthritis, hip dysplasia, osteochondritis, epilepsy, pain relief, chronic organ disorders, and vertebral disorders. Sprains and strains and other traumatic disorders may also benefit. They should not be used in acute infectious conditions, in acute injuries, pregnant animals or in dogs with cardiac pacemakers.
The use of magnets in animals with cancer is controversial. Due to the increased blood flow in areas treated with magnets, the use of magnets in areas with cancerous tumors is problematic as increased blood flow is needed for tumor growth and spread. Alternatively, increased blood flow to the tumor results in increased oxygen delivery to the cancerous cells, which could result in increased hydrogen peroxide levels and cell death within the tumors. Also, this increased blood flow may be used to the benefit of the patients when magnetic therapy is combined with cancer chemotherapy. Be sure to consult with your vet before choosing magnetic therapy for cancer treatment.
What Is The Evidence For Magnetic Therapy?
In both people and canine medicine, a number of studies show the beneficial use of magnets for treatment of a variety of disorders.
In people, a number of double-blind clinical studies have shown positive results for patients with a number of injuries, including chronic wound repair, delayed or non-healing fractures, rotator cuff tendinitis, spinal fusions, avascular necrosis, acute ankle sprains, acute whiplash injuries, sleep disorders, fibromyalgia pain, and edema. Also, for pain in the feet of patients with diabetic peripheral neuropathy, treated with static magnets, pulsed electromagnetic fields, or non-thermal pulsed frequencies. Additionally, benefit has been seen in patients with depression, and alleviation of some symptoms of multiple sclerosis.
In one study; 18 dogs with osteoarthritis, treated for 12 weeks with magnetic beds showed an overall improvement in the appearance of cartilage when compared with dogs in the control group. In this study, the magnetic beds had dominosized ceramic magnets with 1100 G surface field strength positioned between two layers of foam, with a magnetic field on the mattress surface of 400 to 500 G. This decreased synovial inflammation, decreased cartilage damage, and decreased levels of destructive enzymes in the joint fluid. The proposed mechanism of healing involves increased triated thymidine and sulphate incorporation and calcium influx into the cartilage cells.
Another study in dogs showed with regard to fracture healing, there was a reduction of 40 to 50 percent in the healing time of simple fractures by incorporating magnets into the bandage. This meant that dogs would resume weight-bearing activities sooner than with conventional repair.
In one study, 50 cases showed when magnet therapy was used there were no cases of non-union...failure to heal... fractures. The same clinical report also showed good success in treating various types of arthritis with magnets. By using a combination of a magnetic mat for sleeping, and also with a spinning magnetic field, the report showed a positive response in 60 to 70 percent of cases.
A double-blind pilot study of people with post-polio syndrome and muscular or arthritic pain showed that the application of a static magnet (300 to 500 G) resulted in significant and prompt relief of pain.
Magnets are certainly not a cure-all. Still, they are a safe and relatively inexpensive alternative for pets with chronic problems, and with fractures. Magnetic therapy helps the body to heal by creating a favorable environment for repair. They increase blood flow and bring in essential nutrients, and help relieve pain and inflammation.
Always consult with your veterinarian before beginning any therapy. They will know which magnets are preferable and which have shown the true results advertised by the maker.
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Shawn Messonnier, DVM
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Shawn Messonnier DVM Past Supporting Member, Oncology Association of Naturopathic Physicians Author, the award-winning The Natural Health Bible for Dogs & Cats, The Natural Vet’s Guide to Preventing and Treating Cancer in Dogs, and Breast Choices for the Best Chances: Your Breasts, Your Life, and How YOU Can Win The Battle!
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