Vet's Corner

Laser Therapy: An Option to Improve Pet’s Healing

A lot of people are interested in a drug-free, surgery-free, non-invasive alternative to healing their dog’s injuries or chronic ailments, like arthritis, hot spots, slow-healing wounds, and chronic pain. Though it has been around for quite some time, laser therapy is gaining popularity in veterinary medicine as an option to improve pet’s healing. The following article by  Michael Tarrant, DVM, CVA, from MetroPet Magazine gives insight into this form of therapy and what it could do for your dog.

Laser Therapy: An Option to Improve Pet’s Healing

Veterinary laser therapy can be used to stimulate and improve the healing for many conditions in dogs and cats.

What is Laser Therapy for Animals?
Low level laser therapy (cold laser therapy) can be used by veterinarians to help animals heal more quickly from surgery, after a traumatic injury or speed healing of chronic conditions. While this procedure was developed decades ago, it has gained popularity and acceptance in the field of veterinary medicine during in the last several years.

Low level laser therapy is very different than lasers used in surgery. Laser therapy involves using light to stimulate the body’s own metabolism to speed up healing. The light interacts with mitochondria (the cell’s engine) to increase production of Adenosine triphosphate or ATP; this is the substance that the body uses for energy. Laser therapy speeds up the metabolism, and increases the blood flow and drainage of lymphatic fluid in the area that is swollen or needs to heal.

Laser therapy is a non-invasive method that can be used by itself or added to other treatment options. There are generally no side effects and it is a good way to stimulate the body to heal rather than administering additional medications. This will allow the pet’s body to heal easier and enable your pet a quicker return to a normal lifestyle.

What Type of Animals Can be Treated?
Laser therapy for animals is not very different than laser therapy used for humans. The machines and technology are basically the same. Human chiropractors have had similar experiences using laser therapy for humans, as veterinarians have had when using laser therapy for animals. These treatments are mainly being used on dogs, cats and horses.

Almost any kind soft tissue inflammation or swelling can be treated. We have successfully treated many different conditions. Some of them include hot spots, ear infections, intervertebral disk disease, arthritis, pain due to ruptured cruciate ligaments and chronic sinusitis in cats.

Treatment Number & Side Effects
The number of treatments depends on the condition and severity of the condition. Some conditions will respond in one or two treatments and others may require a treatment regimen of six, or more, treatments over several weeks.  In general, the more severe or long-standing type conditions will require more treatments.

For most pets there are no side effects from laser treatments. However, treatments cannot be performed near the thyroid gland or around the eye because the light waves are very powerful and they might stimulate the thyroid gland or cause damage to the eyes. Patients may feel a warm or tingling sensation in the area where the treatments are performed.
How Will My Pet Accept the Treatment?
In most cases, animals generally accept veterinary laser treatment. The normal response is relaxation, because the pet is relieved of the pain they have been experiencing and swelling is reduced. Our experience is that most patients willingly submit themselves to future treatments, demonstrating their comfort with the process. We believe the entire process is pain-free.

What Are The Costs?
Because each treatment plan is different, it is difficult to give a specific cost. However, treatment plans are very cost-effective, especially when considering the outcome. In some cases, the number and amount of medication given to the animal can be decreased or eliminated. This means the overall cost of treatment is lower.

If you are considering treatments, request an outline of the treatment timeframe, number of treatments and associated costs. Note: animals are not normally sedated for these treatments, keeping the costs low.

If you have pet insurance, the cost of laser therapy may be covered by your policy. We suggest you contact your pet insurance company regarding coverage.

Why Consider This Option?
Laser therapy is a non-invasive method that can be added to other treatment options. There are no side effects and it is a good way to stimulate the body to heal itself rather than administering additional medications.  Have you ever heard, “there is nothing else we can do.”  Well now there is something else to do.  Ask a veterinarian familiar with therapy laser treatments if this is an option that may benefit your pet.  This is by no means “a magic bullet” but we have been pleased with our results so far.

Read the original article by Dr. Tarrant here. My four-legged best friend, Nelson, suffered from Neuropathy in his right hind leg. The vet compared it to constant “pins and needles” or tingling. Because of that, he chewed his foot and toes incessantly, giving himself open wounds. After more than a month of conventional veterinary treatment that included steroids, bandages, and several kinds of anti-chew creams, Nelson’s wounds would not heal and he continued to mutilate his foot. My vet started to discuss amputation as an option, since infection was a real possibility. As a last ditch effort, he brought in one of these lasers and asked me if I’d like to bring Nelson in for a demo. I jumped at the opportunity and brought him to the clinic within the hour. The practitioner who gave Nelson his laser treatment explained that he may require 6-7 treatments, but she was very optimistic that it could help him. Nelson sat patiently while she waved a wand over his spine and over his “bum leg” (as I’d come to name it). The entire process took about half an hour. That evening, to my amazement, Nelson stopped chewing on his foot.

In fact, he never chewed on it again.

Nelson’s neuropathy healed after only one laser treatment! His wounds were completely gone within a week. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes. I would (and do) recommend laser therapy as an option to improve pet’s healing. It certainly worked for my boy, Nelson. Do you have any experience with laser therapy? Share your story in the comments below!

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