About 60 animals have been treated at UF’s Small Animal Hospital with a hyperbaric chamber, an oxygen machine found to cure the wounds of furry friends in addition to people.
This Fall, the animal hospital became the first teaching hospital to install a veterinary hyperbaric chamber for clinical research, said UF clinical assistant professor of integrative medicine Justin Shmalberg.
The chamber is a pressurized unit that keeps cells alive by delivering oxygen to injured areas. Although it has been common in treating human patients, it has only been used for veterinary clinical patients within the last 10 years.
Shmalberg said there is not much research on the clinical conditions of pets.
He said the university accepted the donated chamber from a Florida-based manufacturing company because he believes more veterinarians are going to be using it in the future,
“So we need to start informing [them] about what sort of outcomes we’re having and do some clinical research on owned patients as compared to lab animals that may have been used in the past,” Shmalberg said.
He said the chamber’s high-pressure atmosphere of pure oxygen aids severe swelling. So far, there have been about 190 sessions, averaging about three sessions per animal. About 25 animals visit the hospital a year due to snake bites, a common injury the chamber has had success in relieving.
Jackie, a 1-year-old Siberian husky and standard poodle mix, was the first animal treated in UF’s hyperbaric chamber for a rattlesnake bite.
Her owner, Jan Smith, of Clermont, Fla., was advised to take Jackie to UF after antivenom treatment proved unsuccessful.
“They basically saved her life,” Smith said. “They used the hyperbaric chamber on her face because her head had swollen up from the bites... Now there are no scars or lasting repercussions – she’s just perfect.”
Shmalberg said he is confident in the hyperbaric chamber and is ready to learn more.
“I think we’ve seen very encouraging results in certain types of patients,” he said. “We are definitely excited going forward to hopefully publish some information about what the hyperbaric chamber can do and maybe what its limitations or side effects might be as well.”
UF clinical assistant professor of integrative medicine Justin Shmalberg demonstrates how the hyperbaric chamber works at UF’s Small Animal Hospital on March 11.