Morris Animal Foundation-funded researchers at The Ohio State University (OSU) have begun a study to evaluate a non-invasive and affordable therapy for lower back pain in dogs, called extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT).

ESWT involves the safe delivery of sound waves to damaged soft tissue to lessen pain and speed healing. Studies in humans and horses show significant improvement in back pain after treatment. While it has been tried in dogs to stimulate bone healing and manage shoulder tendon injuries, this is the first official evaluation to assess if the therapy is effective for lower back pain.

Over the next six months, researchers will enroll around 20 adult large-breed dogs with lower back pain. The dogs will receive X-rays to ensure their pain is a result of a spine or disc issue and not due to other causes. A veterinarian will perform a physical exam on each dog and evaluate their gaits as they walk over a pressure mat. Each dog will then receive three ESWT treatments administered at two-week intervals.

The dogs’ improvements will be based primarily on owner questionnaires, but the team will also perform another physical exam and retest the symmetry of each dog’s gait to evaluate weight distribution patterns post-treatment.

The results will be analyzed to determine treatment effectiveness. “If these results are promising, this work could provide veterinarians with another evidence-based tool to use for pain management,” says Dr. Janet Patterson-Kane, Morris Animal Foundation Chief Scientific Officer.

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