Pain is Invisible….Its Symptoms Are Not!

Emotional Pain and its Stress Potential

“Because some emotional pains may induce more suffering than physical pain, animals with unalleviated fear, anxiety, isolation distress, and boredom should be regarded and treated with the same given to those with physical pain.”  McMillan, Franklin D: A world of hurts – is pain special?, JAVMA, Vol 223, No. 2, July 15, 2003

Pain – Fear – Anxiety Interplay

Ariel's injured neck was successfully treated with herbs and MET in just one week!

Ariel’s injured neck was successfully treated with herbs and MET in just one week!

The urgency for survival is signaled in the form of feelings.  Feelings are cognitive; that is, we get some knowledge through them about the things, beings or situations which have given rise to them.  Contrary to prevailing view, there is evidence that emotional pain may induce greater suffering than physical pain.  Studies have shown that emotional factors weigh more strongly in animals’ behavioral choices than physical pain.

In one study, infant rats taken from mother and placed on opposite side of electrified grid.  Distress vocalizations of pups caused mother rats to cross the grid and carry them back to the nest, receiving constant electrical shocks.  One rat retrieved her pups 58 times before the experiment was terminated. [Weiser BP, Sheard NM. Maternal behavior in the rat. Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd, 1933;121-122.]  In 1996 Brooklyn New York, a mother cat with 4-week-old kittens were in an abandoned building that caught fire.  The mother cat reentered the burning building five times to remove all of her kittens, each time sustaining more burns.  She and her kittens survived, although she suffered facial disfigurement.

Another important point is that animals live in the moment and feel the pain ‘now’ and, unlike humans, cannot be comforted by the knowledge that things may be better in a few hours or tomorrow.  Neurogenic pain can lead to aggression.

Behavior Responses and Outward Physical Characteristics

  • Vocalization: Groan, whine, growl, bleat, squeal, grunt
  • Facial expressions: Fixed stare, glazed, squinted or closed eyes, flat expression
  • Body posture: Hunched, sternal, laterally recumbent, crouched with head drawn, prayer position
  • Self-awareness: Guarding and self-mutilation, limping
  • Activity: Restless, restricted, circling, shivering
  • Attitude/socialization: Fearful, aggression, timid, hiding, comfort-seeking
  • Appetite; Response to palpation


Alpha-Stim® is the most popular medical device used at home in the treatment and elimination of pain, anxiety, and stress related disorders in animals. It uses a unique waveform that works with the body to help it regain a healthy circulatory current, stimulate endorphin release, and rebalance firing patterns. Alpha-Stim® technology is FDA cleared. These prescription medical devices have been widely researched on animals and used to help people suffering from pain, anxiety, insomnia and depression since 1981.

There has been nothing in the veterinary world that can do for animals what Alpha-Stim® does. It is a drugless behavior and pain management treatment. Totally safe and effective, A-S has made positive changes in animals suffering from:

  • Pain related to injury or surgery in all tissue, arthritis, and other chronic neuromuscular conditions.
  • Biochemical and neuronal dysfunction such as cognitive dysfunction, obsessive compulsive disorder (e.g., lick granulomas, over grooming in cats, hallucinations, hyperesthesia), separation anxiety, fear of storms, depression, urinary incontinence, anorexia in cats, loss of social status in home, over reactive sympathetic system, and other nervous and aggression related conditions.
  • Beneficial in healing wounds, non-union fractures, lower motor neuron injuries and reducing chronic infectious states.

Comparing Microcurrent Electrotherapy (MET) and Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)

I often get this question from clients familiar with TENS therapy.  Not only is MET superior therapy when compared to TENS, it can easily be prescribed for home use in a simple 5-step protocol along with diagrams and video demonstrations.

Wave polarity[i] Biphasic – complex pattern Biphasic – simple pattern
Frequency[ii] 0.5 – 100 Hz 50 – 200 Hz
Pulse width 0.1 – 2 sec. preset, which combined w/ the much lower intensity can increase ATP production Can adjust width; 60 uS range needed to affect A fibers (Gate Control Theory) to decrease pain
Pulse train & modulation[iii] Inherent electronic modulation of intensity, frequency & pulse width Operator must switch to a burst-mode to get the on-off feeling of pulse train
Electrodes & placement Carbon or silver available

Silver has shown to give best results

Electrodes placed opposite each other

Options w/ probes

Generally carbon

Must be placed above and under spinous process

1 inch mistake can cause no effect

Treatment time 20-30 minutes will last in most cases 1-2 days Pain relief lasts only a few minutes after treatment; needs to be repeated several times a day
Intensity uA level

maximum intensity 600-1000uA w/ variable adjusting to comfort level

uA range

low, moderate or high

Conclusion Works on a cellular level and probably has its effects much closer to the cause of injury

In most cases, will be more satisfying b/c of longer lasting & more intense effects

By mechanism, has a symptomatic pain relieving effect

[i] Biphasic waves are much smoother to the skin than monophasic.  Monophasic waves can cause dermal burns in long treatments.

[ii] 0.3 – 3 Hz range have shown best results; 0.5 Hz good for pain relief; <8 Hz needed to release endorphins

[iii] Ways to interrupt the stimulus to avoid adaptation by the CNS

Animal Patient Applications: In-Clinic and At-Home

  • Pain management protocols including Cancer and Critical care pain
  • Surgery: To reduce anesthesia and as part of multimodal approach to pain
  • Post-surgical rehab: To reduce edema, swelling, hematomas, and pain
  • Muscle sprains and strains, spasms, back or neck stresses, trigger points
  • Neurological cases: Seizures, Old Dog Vestibular Syndrome, Cognitive Dysfunction, Rabies Miasm, other neuropathies
  • Stomach distress
  • Anxiety, Stress, Insomnia, and Depression disorders
  • Osteoarthritis, Wounds, Adrenal malfunction

Efficacious therapy that’s easy to learn and safe to use at home, Alpha-Stim® is ideal for refractory conditions or animals that may be sensitive to conventional care – and, it is highly cost-effective too.

For more information on how your animal can benefit from this awesome therapy, please contact Dr. Zenitsky at