Comparing Microcurrent Devices for Equine and Canine Use

    by Deborah Powell

                     Updated 2018 (Revised and condensed from 2011 posting)

Choosing a microcurrent device is often a challenging process because the features and pricing vary greatly. It is often confusing to sort out what product is right for your needs and budget, especially when you do not know the pros and cons of each device. To help prospective microcurrent users, as well as anyone looking for another device, I wanted to provide some general information as well as a rating and summary for eleven different devices found to be used for horses and other animals.

Years ago I discovered that I am able to look at products a little more skeptically than the average person, which is because my husband and I have been in the consumer and commercial electronics industry my entire adult life. This background enables me to look at electronic devices with more awareness than most people and I have the resources to test therapy products. It is important to remember that a purchase is about the guts of the device: the quality, or lack of quality, of the components used. It’s matching the claims to the sophistication, or lack of sophistication, of the device. It’s looking at the price tag with all of that in mind. And, of course, keeping in mind the end result as a therapy treatment compared to the time and money spent.

Finally, work with a company that offers knowledge, protocols, repairs and service for animal application.

General Info on Microcurrent

Microcurrent is in the microamperes range, which is a low level of electrical current slightly above what the body produces naturally. Microcurrent is part of the TENS class and is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the US. TENS stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation and this term is used for any therapy device that delivers electrical stimulation topically, meaning it does not penetrate the skin. The FDA approves most microcurrent devices for the use of temporary pain relief. There are studies showing microcurrent has many additional benefits but devices are not necessarily approved for other conditions unless noted by the manufacturer.

The majority of devices in the TENS class are in mid-to-high ranges of milliamperes, which means they are operating at current levels 1,000 times higher than microcurrent. Milliamp devices are used to block pain for short periods of time, however the majority of horses do not tolerate high levels of milliamps. In fact, horses feel current at lower levels than people do and tend to respond faster than people when using microamperage (microcurrent) for healing. Some devices have both milliamp and microamp features, and using low milliamps can be useful for treating certain equine conditions. The units I have rated only use the lowest levels of milliamps or have no milliamp ranges at all.

Microcurrent is used for reducing recovery time while administering soothing, safe, therapeutic treatment. There is a long list of equine conditions and injuries that respond well to microcurrent and I tend to think of it as a foundation therapy for recovery. I love that my horses, who are now familiar with microcurrent, expect me to “fix it”—whatever it may be—and often I can. And yes,of course, I still call my vet when needed.

After two plus decades I have yet to see a better tall around therapy that can do as much as MCT when good protocols and an apporiate device are used for the job. 

Product Ratings

Below are some common microcurrent devices used on horses, which I have rated based on my experience with and knowledge of each. One star is the lowest recommendation, increasing to five stars for the devices I found to have the best qualities for their cost. I also included brief descriptions on how I determined my personal ratings. The costs are approximate for each basic equine package because prices are subject to change and there are variations in accessory packages available.

AlphaStim 100

  • $995 for basic package
  •  Small portable device
  •  9-volt battery
  •  Made in Japan
  • Two channel

This is a nice quality unit, but has minimal features.  Inlcuded are plastic acupoint probes and most users report disappointment in   use on animals application.  Limited choice of frequencies. The AlphaStim has new models and remains higher-priced option for the features.

ArcEquine

  • $ 500.00
  • 4 Programs (with ?)
  • Made in? (Sold from UK)
  • Basic Accessories
  • Rechargeable battery
  • 1 Channel

Nice packaging. This information can only shared in minor having not seen or tested a unit.  The inquires I get complain the device quit working after short time of ownership,  no customer support and vague with specification details, protocols or assistance. Loss of connection indicator.

Best-Vet III★★★★

  • 1,400.00 for basic equine package
  • 4 programs/each with a range of frequencies
  • Small handheld device
  • GSR Indicator
  • Two AA batteries (long battery life)
  •  Made in the USA 

The electrode comb and other accessories, like the acupoint pen, do not require return electrodes, which simplifies the treatment and eliminates prep time. The Best-Vet can also be used in the standard positive/negative setup. The device is digital and very electronically sophisticated. Registered as a biofeedback microcurrent device, the Best-Vet has simple choices of programs and amplitude (current) controls. All programs have automatic biofeedback that causes the device to adjust signals based on information received from the body. A GSR indicator for locating tissue restrictions, soreness, hoof imbalances, and more. A couple minor cons are that the indicator lights could be brighter if working outdoors and audio tones are too soft for some people to hear.

Electro-Acuscope/Myopulse – ★

  • $15,000 to $20,000 for full system (two devices & accessories) 
  •  Desktop Model: approx. 25 lbs each (plus case)
  •  Large lead-acid batteries 
  •  Made in the USA

The Electro-Acuscope and Myopulse are two separate devices and both are electronically outdated machines with only around twelve frequencies. The Acuscope come remote-start probes for treating and reading acupoints and has GSR (galvanic skin resistance reading), which is a nice feature. The Myopulse, which has no GSR, must be purchased to have polarity control and a modified waveform. The brass plates (electrodes) used are heavy and non-conforming to the body, and even though

they never wear out they require more conductive gel and longer preparation than other options.

Another con is the requirement high cost of maintenance. Some models state that they are “calibrated for equines,” but this appears to be more of a marketing tool than anything practical because the majority of these machines are the original devices for people. For the cost-to-features ratio, and connivence this is not a recommended microcurrent device to purchase for equine use. Various other models also.

EquiStim Leg Saver – ★

  •  $3,390 for equine package
  •  Small, portable device
  •  Rechargeable battery
  • 2 Channel
  • Loss of connection indicator

Although similar in function to the Micro 400, the EquiStim Leg Saver lacks the Micro 400’s user controls and features. The EquiStim Leg Saver offers alternating current and an intensity setting but has no other user controls. The package includes equine accessories.

MicroStim II ★★

  • $ 50.00 (unit only)
  • Small portable device
  • 9-volt battery
  • Two channel
  • Made in China

There are many like this low end model.  A couple cons are that users are unable to choose an exact level of microamps and these devices are limited to three frequencies and alternating current. When at the higher levels on the controls, treatment quickly reaches one to two milliamps, which is often uncomfortable for horses. The MicroStim II is low cost and after outfitting it with equine accessories it is able to do an adequate job. Quoted without any equine accessories.

Micro 400 ★★★ (OUT OF PRODUCTION)

  • $200 for basic equine package
  • Small portable device
  • 9-volt battery (short battery life)
  • Two channel
  •  Made in Taiwan

The Micro 400 has four frequencies, alternating current, and is adjustable to low milliamps using higher voltage. The inclusion of carrier background frequencies makes the Micro 400 an excellent low-cost unit for colic and acute conditions. It also does a good job on other conditions. In some cases it is beneficial for a horse to receive long exposure to microcurrent, so unattended treatments are necessary, ie fractures. 

Matrix MCT Patch ★★★

  • $40
  • Disposable patches, no replacement batteries
  •  Made in China

This is disposable patch.  It is composed of two patches connected with a 9-inch wire. The unit runs an average of 200 to 500 hours before being discarded when the battery has been exhausted. The MCT Patch turns on when applied and automatically turns off when not in use. It can be used continuously for several days or for shorter periods and saved for another treatment. When used correctly, the battery lasts longer as the injury heals. This is because when the MCT Patch is working hard the life of the patch is shorter. The MCT Patch operates at an average of 45 microamps with no frequency and declines in output as the battery power is diminished. The MCT Patch is great legs and foot issues, such as stone bruises and abscesses, because it can be applied to difficult locations with accessories.  The best treatment results are seen when the MCT Patch is used in conjunction with traditional microcurrent treatments. The Matrix MCT Patch is a good value purchase for low-cost, unattended treatments.

Precision MicroStim – ★★ (OUT OF PRODUCTION)

  • $4,500 for basic equine package
  • Desktop, portable device; weighs 16 lbs
  • GSR Meter
  • 8 D-cell batteries
  • Two channel
  • Made in the USA                                     

The Precision is the re-engineered label from Dr. Wing’s MENS units. Dr. Wing was the inventor of microcurrent devices in the United States and his initial models were called Automatic and Myomactic. The Precision’s features include using internal solid-state modules, GSR, 1,000 selectable frequencies, polarity control, adjustable channels. It comes with remote-start acupoint probes  The Precision is fairly large, weighing 16 pounds, and looks like an old-style electronics test meter. Protocols for using these older machines are in MicroCurrent for Horse Book. Other similiar analog MENS, MasterStim, are also mostly out of production.

MicroPlus – ★★★★

  •  $270 for basic equine package
  •  Small handheld device
  • 9-volt batter
  • Two Channel
  •  Made in the USA

This unit that has five frequencies, can adjust between positive, negative or alternating current, and is able to switch from microamps to milliamps. The MicroPlus has stable and accurate current selections, which is unique for a device in this price range. The MicroPlus has very soft voltage outputs, which makes it one of my favorites in the low-cost category. One con is that you must know the little tricks to get the best results and effectively use the full features of this unit. This is the case with all low cost units. The MicroPlus has a 5-year warranty and overall is a good choice for the price.

StimPlus

  •  $150 for unit
  •  Very small portable device
  • 2 small lithium batteries (same as used in watches)
  • Single point treatment
  •  Made in China

The StimPlus comes equipped with a fine-point end only for acupoints. The StimPlus has the acupoint locator feature (using GSR), three frequencies, and selectable intensity in microamps. Most acupoint finders in this category use milliamps, which is not as ideal as microamps. Not all horses will tolerate the stimulation this device delivers. Due horse hair point finding is a challenge with this unit. Mostly used as replacement to acupoint needle treatments.

Shopping

When shopping for therapy devices it is easy to get caught up in the emotion of trying to help our horses. However, when choosing an electronic therapy product it is important to use the same scrutiny as you would when shopping for other electronic devices (such as computers and phones). This way you can find a device that meets your needs and fits your budget.

Deborah Powell is the author of  books “MicroCurrent Therapy for Horses, MicroCurrent for Dogs and other vital therapies you should know”.  Additional information can be found at the Matrix Therapy Products website, therapyproducts.net