Laser Therapy For Your Pet

by Teresa Garden, DVM

The term “laser” has been found in scientific papers dating back to 1959. Laser is an acronym for “light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation”. Laser therapy is essentially light therapy. The light delivered by the laser converts to energy the body can use. Therapeutic lasers are used for healing. They are not the same as lasers used for surgery. Surgical lasers can be used for ablation, cutting, and thermally coagulating tissue. Therapeutic lasers have been used throughout the world for many years. They were approved by the FDA for use in our country in 2002.

A therapeutic laser amplifies light which is emitted in the form of photons. The photons have specific wavelengths that allow them to be absorbed by biological tissue on contact. Once the photons are absorbed, they induce activity at the molecular, cellular, and tissue level. These activities fall into three major categories: increasing healing, decreasing inflammation, and decreasing pain. Laser therapy accomplishes these feats by increasing localized blood flow, increasing the enzyme ATP, and increasing protein synthesis.

Laser therapy decreases the pain response by increasing endorphin and serotonin production, normalizing nerve cell action potentials and generating new blood vessels and neurons. Overall, laser therapy supplies the proper energy cells needed to heal and to conduct their normal functions. It stimulates the body to heal from within.

Laser therapy is now an accepted treatment modality in veterinary medicine and is readily available. The understanding of laser science has advanced tremendously within the last five years. Technology and scientific studies have confirmed its validity and repeatability in the treatment of many conditions. There is now a multitude of clinical trials, peer-reviewed research and systematic reviews supporting the effectiveness of lasers in treating people and companion animals.

There are many practical advantages of laser therapy in veterinary medicine. It is an affordable, drug-free, surgery-free, and non-invasive holistic treatment modality. Most treatments take only a matter of minutes. Pets will often feel a gentle and soothing warmth from the laser light, allowing them to relax and enjoy the treatment. During treatments pets will get almost immediate relief from pain and anxiety.

At Animal Health & Healing we will often combine laser therapy with both conventional and holistic treatment protocols to achieve optimal results. Both acute and chronic conditions may be helped with laser therapy. Wounds, abscesses, abrasions, and hot spots are acute skin ailments that often will heal in half the time when laser therapy is employed along with conventional treatment. Acute trauma such as sprains, strains, partial ligament tears, and animal bites can successfully be treated with laser therapy. It helps the tissue to heal quickly by decreasing inflammation and infection. Our patients feel better since the treatment also relieves pain. We routinely use laser therapy post-operatively for spays, neuters, dental prophies, and wound repair for the same reasons: it promotes healing and decreases pain.

Chronic diseases afflicting many of our pets can be treated and managed with laser therapy. Treatment protocols will consist of 6-10 treatments followed by monthly maintenance treatments. Pets suffering from arthritis, degenerative joint disease, elbow and hip dysplasia, and intervertebral disc disease can all benefit from laser therapy. Laser therapy will aid in pain control. This can result in decreased or avoidance of NSAID use.

Ear infections (both acute and chronic) can respond to laser therapy. The treatment will fight infection from bacteria and yeast and will decrease ear pain, itching, and scratching. Almost any condition that produces inflammation may benefit from laser therapy. It can help pets recover from pancreatitis, bladder infections, lick granulomas, stomatitis, gingivitis, and periodontal disease.

Laser therapy is still a relatively new treatment modality in veterinary medicine. As such, its full potential for use is most likely not yet being achieved. In the human medical field laser therapy is being explored for treating traumatic brain injury, stroke, and spinal cord injury. In veterinary medicine it is just starting to be used to treat paralysis and epilepsy.

There are precautions and contraindications for employing laser therapy. It cannot be used on the eyes, thyroid gland, reproductive organs, or any cancer. Protective eyewear must be worn by veterinary staff and our patients. Pets look really cool wearing their “doggles” and their human companions enjoy the pics! But most of all, we all enjoy seeing pets responding well to this new, effective, and safe treatment modality.

Dr. Teresa Garden is chief veterinarian/owner of Animal Health & Healing, a full-service holistic and conventional veterinary practice in the Maplewood /Richmond Heights area. 314-781-1738. AnimalHealthandHealing.com.