Paws and Claws: Cold Laser Therapy a popular treatment to help pets

by Cindy Anderson, DVM

Laser therapy for pets can help in many cases by promoting healing and reducing inflammation and pain.

This increasingly popular treatment option goes by many names: red-light therapy, photo biomodulation therapy (PBMT) and low-level laser therapy (LLLT).

Benefits of laser therapy for dogs

Many canine/feline health issues have responded positively to laser therapy. Therapeutic laser is used to treat many conditions, including osteoarthritis, intervertebral disc disease, lick granuloma and cellulitis.

Laser therapy reduces pain and inflammation and promotes the healing of many tissues in the body, including skin, ears, gums, muscles and tendons.

Veterinarians also are using laser therapy for dogs as part of their multimodal approach to address ear infections, which often recur or become chronic.

Laser therapy also can help with surgical or traumatic wound healing, increasing the metabolism of specific tissues, reducing the formation of scar tissue and with immunoregulation. The therapy also can improve nerve function and nerve regeneration, release painful trigger points and speed up the healing of infections.

How does laser therapy for dogs work?

Therapeutic laser therapy uses light energy, which is cold or low-level, to work its “magic.” Light used at specific frequencies causes a physiological change at the cellular level.

These changes can include replenishing adenosine triphosphate (ATP, the molecule that carries energy in the cells of every living being), reducing inflammation and decreasing pain transmission.

While the exact method of action for laser therapy has not yet been identified, it is thought that, in essence, it provides a “jump-start” to the cells needed for healing and other body processes.

What to expect during a dog laser therapy session

During a typical treatment, the pet will lie on a padded bed or blanket on a table, or the floor and the treatments are delivered using a hand-held device.

Sometimes the owner positions himself or herself by the patient’s head and pets them while we chat during the treatment. Both the dog and the people in the room must wear goggles to protect their eyes while the laser is in use.

How long does each laser therapy session last?

The length of a single laser treatment depends on the power density of the laser unit but is usually under one minute per site. Lasers are categorized into four classes, with Class 4 delivering the highest power output.

The most used therapeutic lasers in veterinary medicine are Class 3 and Class 4. The higher the power of the laser, the shorter the time that is needed to deliver a particular dose of energy into the animal’s tissues.

How many laser therapy treatments will your dog need?

The frequency of laser therapy treatments varies depending on the type of laser used, the disease being treated, and whether it is a chronic or acute issue. Typically, a patient is treated two to three times per week for two to three weeks, and then the veterinarian reduces the frequency depending on the outcome.

For very acute, painful conditions like a ruptured anal gland, treatments can be conducted daily for three to five days, then several times the next week, and then  the time between treatments is increased until the set goal is attained. The first treatment for surgical wounds is completed before the animal even wakes up.

Using dog laser therapy with other treatments

Laser therapy for dogs can be a big part of a multimodal pain management program that can be paired with acupuncture, massage, chiropractic care and hydrotherapy, as well as with medications and supplements.

Because laser therapy increases the comfort and mobility of the pet with relatively few side effects, it can help when a patient that’s in pain also has heart, kidney or liver disease that prohibits the dog from using traditional therapies like prescription pet medications.

Not only can it be paired with other therapies, but it should be, as therapeutic laser complements other pain management strategies—both pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic.

Cold Laser Therapy is available at Lakelands Trail Veterinary Clinic, 4525 S. Michigan 52, Stockbridge, MI 49285; 517-655-5551. Call today and ask how we can help your pet!

Cindy Anderson, DVM

Cindy Anderson, DVM,  is a graduate of MSU Veterinary College (1992) and has practiced veterinary medicine for over 28 years.

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