When your pet is hurt or in pain, your natural instinct is to help. Whether your pet suffers from an acute injury or a chronic condition such as arthritis, pain causes suffering and limits your pet’s lifestyle. An injured animal may be stuck on one floor of the house because stairs are too difficult, or they may no longer be able to chase a ball or a squirrel. Low level laser therapy is an emerging veterinary treatment to deal with these types of conditions. While laser therapy for pets has come out in the past ten years or so, it has been used in humans for over 40 years. So, you can feel confident in its safety and efficacy. Here are some guidelines on laser therapy for pets and the types of conditions it can best treat.
What is Laser Therapy?
Lasers are directed beams of light that can penetrate tissue. Laser therapy utilizes this light to stimulate cell regeneration and blood circulation. Veterinary studies have found that animals treated with low level laser therapy showed increased angiogenesis, the growth of new blood vessels, and a reduction of chemicals associated with inflammation. The new blood vessels allow for increased blood flow and healing to the affected area; reduced inflammation promotes more rapid healing.
Depending on the frequency of light used, laser therapy can be hot or cold. Hot laser treatments can be effective for certain procedures, but run the risk of cutting or burning your pet. Cold laser treatments are completely noninvasive, so you can reap the benefits of the laser without any risk to your pet. You don’t even have to shave the affected area! Better yet, there are no side effects. Your pet has nothing to lose and everything to be gained.
Which Types of Conditions Can Low Level Laser Therapy Treat?
Low level laser therapy does not penetrate deep into the body, so it is best suited for treating soft tissues just below the skin. Good candidates for treatment include acute injuries, such as sprains and strains, and chronic conditions, such as arthritis, swelling due to back disc problems, and musculoskeletal abnormalities. It can also be used to promote nerve growth after surgery and to promote wound healing. For example, one study looked at dogs with a spinal cord injury that were treated with surgery. The dogs that received low level laser therapy after surgery walked sooner and had fewer medical complications than dogs who did not receive laser therapy.
What Does a Laser Therapy Session Look Like?
Before beginning therapy, your pet will need a full physical to confirm that he or she is a good candidate for laser therapy and that there is no underlying condition, such a tumor or other issue, causing the pain. If the condition is treatable with laser therapy, your vet will prescribe a certain number of sessions. Most likely you will start with two to three sessions per week, then decrease the frequency over time. A typical session lasts ten to twenty minutes. You can stay with your pet and he does not need to be sedated. He can stand up or lie down during the treatment. The vet or technician simply holds a laser wand over the affected area. Because the therapy provides pain relief, many animals look forward to their treatment sessions. Over time, your pet should experience relief from pain and increased motility. An added bonus is that if your pet has required pain medication you may be able to reduce those meds or stop using them altogether.