PEMF Device for Pets

Bioelectronics corporation has announced its intent to market a new device for treatment of osteoarthritis in pets. The device, the HealFast®Therapy PetPatch™, is a pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) device that attaches over a swollen or painful joint ad is intended to “to reduce swelling, relieve pain and enhance the healing of surgical incisions, accidental wounds, sprains, strains and chronic wounds.”

PEMF devices are widely available for human use, and as usual for CAM nostrums they are based on some suggestive in vitro and laboratory studies and weak clinical trial evidence. Electromagnetic fields do have measurable effects on cells in vitro, and there are some recognized medical uses for them. Some evidence suggests an improvement in outcome for non-union fractures, and there may be some benefit in terms of reduced pain and swelling following surgery. However, overall the evidence for clinical benefit is equivocal, as indicated by a number of review studies:

“All trials examined knee OA and one also performed a separate evaluation for cervical OA patients. The results of this analysis show improvements in all measurements for knee OA, but their clinical significance from a patient’s perspective was questionable. Only two outcomes favoured treatment for cervical OA trial and none were considered clinically important. There were no reported side effects. The reviewers conclude that there is an urgent need for further large-scale studies of pulsed electric stimulation with a focus on knee OA to establish the clinical relevance of treatment.” Cochrane Review

“We cannot make any definitive statements on the effects of electrotherapy for people with acute or chronic mechanical neck disorders (MND). Based on this review of 11 trials and 525 people with MND, the current evidence on Galvanic current (direct or pulsed), iontophoresis, TENS, EMS, PEMF and permanent magnets is either lacking, limited, or conflicting.” Cochrane Review

“McCarthy and colleagues (2006) noted that the rehabilitation of knee osteoarthritis often includes electrotherapeutic modalities as well as advice and exercise.  One commonly used modality is PEMF.  Its equivocal benefit over placebo treatment has been previously suggested.  However, recently a number of randomized controlled studies have been published that have allowed a systematic review to be conducted.  The authors concluded that this systematic review provides further evidence that PEMF has little value in the management of knee osteoarthritis.  There appears to be clear evidence for the recommendation that PEMF does not significantly reduce the pain of knee osteoarthritis.”AETNA insurance company literature summary

“In a randomized, placebo-controlled study, Ay and Evcik (2008) examined the effects of PEMF on pain relief and functional capacity of patients with knee osteoarthritis.  A total of 55 patients were included.  At the end of treatment, there was statistically significant improvement in pain scores in both groups (p < 0.05).  On the other hand, no significant difference was observed within the groups (p > 0.05).  These investigators observed statistically significant improvement in some of the subgroups of Lequesne index (e.g., morning stiffness and activities of daily living) compared to the placebo group.  However, these researchers could not observe statistically significant differences in total of the scale between two groups (p > 0.05).  Applying between-group analysis, the authors were unable to demonstrate a beneficial symptomatic effect of PEMF in the treatment of knee osteoarthritis in all patients.  They stated that further studies using different types of magnetic devices, treatment protocols and patient populations are warranted to confirm the general efficacy of PEMF therapy in knee osteoarthritis and other conditions.” AETNA insurance company literature summary

“Furthermore, in a systematic review on wound care management, Cullum, et al. (2001) concluded that there is generally insufficient reliable evidence to draw conclusions about the contribution of laser therapy, therapeutic ultrasound, electro-therapy and electromagnetic therapy to chronic wound healing.  Flemming and Cullum (2001) also concluded that there is currently no reliable evidence of benefit of electromagnetic therapy in the healing of venous leg ulcers.” AETNA insurance company literature summary


This would seem to suggest that a responsible company would make an investment in investigating a promising therapeutic concept in the hopes of eventually finding a beneficial, and presumably profitable, product. Unfortunately, as I’ve discussed before this instead is seen as a perfect opportunity to make a quick buck selling something based on its promised rather than its demonstrated value. What is especially disturbing about the Bioelectronics’ press release is the unabashed trumpeting of the potential profit to be made and the clearly stated intent to market the device directly to consumers, bypassing the veterinarians who presumably might have troubling questions about the evidence behind the company’s claims: “A comprehensive direct to consumer marketing program will support the launch of the new product. The centerpiece of the campaign is a new TV commercial which will begin rolling out next week.”


So for those of you who are veterinarians, be prepared for the clients who will soon be coming to you having seen the new commercial. Hopefully, they’ll be seeking you advice, but unfortunately it’s always dissatisfying for client and vet alike to have to answer the glowing testimonials and marketing hype for one of these products by a sober and bland summary of equivocal research evidence. Still, that’s our job!

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17 Responses to PEMF Device for Pets

  1. Pingback: Arthritis Treatment | What your joints need

  2. Pingback: Which Pulsed Magnetic Resonance Stimulation should I choose? | ElectroMeds

  3. Kelly Whelan says:


  4. skeptvet says:

    Tere are lots of published studies on PEMF. That’s why this article cites systematic reviews of clinical studies, which objectively evaluate the preponderance of the evdience. The latest update of the Cochrane review cited still concludes: “We cannot make any definite statements on the efficacy and clinical usefulness of electrotherapy modalities for neck pain. Since the evidence is of low or very low quality, we are uncertain about the estimate of the effect. Further research is very likely to change both the estimate of effect and our confidence in the results.”

    The latest systematic review concerning arthritis concludes: “Current evidence of low and very low quality suggests that low frequency (?100 Hz) pulsed subsensory threshold electrical stimulation produced either through PEMF/PES vs sham PEMF/PES is effective in improving physical function but not pain intensity at treatment completion in adults with knee OA blinded to treatment. Methodologically rigorous and adequately powered RCTs are needed to confirm the findings of this review.”

    These are representative of the majority of systematic reviews on the application of PEMF in humans, which mostly conclude that the evidence is suggestive but not clear. Veterinary trials are essentially nonexistent, so at this point no clear conclusion can be drawn.

  5. Susan says:

    Here you can see video of Gizmo, a 17 year old Yorkie-Maltese that acts 4 or 5 years old after 9 years of constant RECOVER-MODE program during nighttime and whenever in her bed during daytime. People guess her age at around 4 years old because of her speed and playful mindset. We recently learned of a long-term client with 18 year old cat that in 4 years on EP (just sleeping next to her master EVERY night) is guessed at 5-6 years old due to its mobility, jump height and playful mind-set. It’s owner had to put the cat toys down from attic because cat was clawing furniture again.

  6. skeptvet says:

    Sorry, yet another meaningless anecdote. Here’s a video of a psychic surgery, so that must work too, eh?

  7. Thanks for sharing nice blog about PEMF Device for Pets…

  8. Bones58gdi says:

    I read the Cochrane Review to which you link. That’s your bona fide?
    You bias is showing. PEMF has a long history and the empirical proof to back it.
    Regardless of injury type or need for other intervention, PEMF will always cause the cell to produce ATP. Always.
    It has since been established that magnetic fields can influence ATP {Adenosine Tri-phosphate) production; increase the supply of oxygen and nutrients via the vascular and lymphatic systems; improve the removal of waste via the lymphatic system; and help to re-balance the distribution of ions across the cell membrane.

  9. skeptvet says:

    If there are good-quality clinical trials showing PEMF has benefits in pets, please direct me to them. If, however, there are in vitro and lab animal studies showing general effects on ATP production, you are mistaken if you believe that is evidence for real-world benefits in real-world patients. And if you think citing Cochrane is a sign of bias, then you can’t be very interested in a scientific evaluation of the treatment since Cochrane is as objective a source as one is likely to find.

  10. Jenny says:

    Skeptvet I enjoyed your article however I my self with my wolfhound use a pemf machine. He has a neck injury and I have chronic Lyme and three autoimmune diseases. As far as antidotal evidence I have it and for my dog and I it’s been a lifesaver. My life has been changed immensely from chronic pain and I get a deep sense of well being and I was a HUGE SKEPTic. My dog is happy and running again with no yipping from pain while active or adjusting his body. I have chosen to trial things like this, as with most things since there are also still people who claim chronic lyme isn’t real, celiacs disease is made up etc… so we patients must go on how it works for us and not go on everyone else’s glowing or rotten reviews. Not all things work for everyone but if you can open your mind which when you are ill is something you must do and try things that may not be mainstream. Again, I would recommend this to everyone to try because if it helps even one person it to me is worth it. I have tried plenty things that haven’t worked for me but have changed the lives of others.

  11. skeptvet says:

    so we patients must go on how it works for us and not go on everyone else’s glowing or rotten reviews

    Actually, what we should go on is scientific evidence, not testimonial or personal experience. The story you tell about your experience here is no different that those stories told about bloodletting, homeopathy, and every other worthless therapy. Either everything works, or stories aren’t reliable. A “HUGE SKEPTIC” should understand that their own experiences and anecdotes are no more reliable than anyone else’s.

    Why Anecdotes Can’t Be Trusted

  12. ron capito says:

    Greetings- wonderful article and comments. I find myself torn between the science, or lack of, and the results that I’ve seen in the equine world with our technology. We have a PEMF element, but also a tissue specific signal (derived from humans using a SQUID machine). I get all the mumbo-jumbo tech speak that some charlatans throw out there in the hope of bilking people. Here’s the deal on our end. We’ve seen some pretty incredible healing, such as major tears being closed in five weeks rather than 8 months. I could go on and on but in the end it is anecdotal evidence. We haven’t had the budget nor the inclination to put down a number of horses simply to do histology studies. So the inventor is currently working on a 3D imaging APP that will allow us to build a 3D model off of the ultrasounds and then look at that as a way to gauge if we are creating tissue as one vet suggested. We are currently looking at developing a canine unit – would you have the interest or are you in the position to be part of a beta-test group? I always prefer to have skeptics use our technology. Let me know if you are and I can keep you posted on the developments.

  13. skeptvet says:

    Unfortunately, uncontrolled personal observations are, as you point out, just anecdotal, and this includes observations by skeptics. I have no special ability to avoid the errors inherent in anecdotal evidence that others don’t have. I am always interested in controlled research studies, but I wouldn’t be interested in an uncontrolled “Try it and see what you think” evaluation of this or any other new treatment because such experiences are always biased in favor of perceiving an effect whether there is one or not. The time, money, and effort involved in this sort of activity would be better saved for performing controlled clinical trials.

  14. Alison says:

    So this study, sponsored by the device manufacturer, has me giving it serious side-eye. Plus, the small sample size also doesn’t help with that. Considering these devices are expensive for what they likely contain for components, and you can’t replace or recharge the batteries, I am still very skeptical. Or is it possibly only effective for this single purpose. They do state more trials are needed, but Assisi is already running with it. Sigh.

  15. skeptvet says:

    I’m still looking for the complete report, but the abstract states up front that “There was no difference in primary outcome or in secondary measures of gait.” That right there is jargon for “It didn’t work.” The rest is data dredging to try and find something to justify publishing, which is probably why it is in a small neuroscience journal instead of a mainstream veterinary medical journal.

  16. Alison says:

    Thank you. There are just so many things about this that sets my woo detectors off. I hate that my favourite rescue might be wasting money “treating” cats with this thing, in conjunction with real Veterinary care, so it ends up looking like it’s doing something when it really isn’t. And the world is watching because they stream 24/7 on YouTube. There are a few regular viewers in the chat who are trying to convey to everyone else that it’s completely unproven technology, but they are drowned out by all the anecdotes. It has to be “prescribed” by a vet and I was hoping that the rescues’ vet would be sceptical of this, but I’m guessing that didn’t happen.

  17. Pingback: PEMF (AssisiLoop) for Separation Anxiety in Dogs- A new Study |

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