Have you heard the buzz about laser therapy for dogs? In a surprising twist, lasers were first used on humans 40 years ago, long before they were used on animals. There are decades of research to show that lasers are safe and effective for people, and the technology has finally moved into veterinary medicine with Class IV “cold lasers.” These lasers are being used to treat a wide variety of ailments with no side effects. What do you need to know about laser therapy? Is it something that might benefit your dog? Is it cost-prohibitive? Here are 8 things you didn’t know about canine laser therapy.
#1 – It’s safe
Did you know that the word “LASER” is actually an acronym? It stands for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission Rays. What does that mean? The lasers used in canine laser therapy use waves of light at different frequencies to reach different levels of your dog’s skin or muscle tissue. The laser reduces inflammation and promotes wound healing. No heat is generated from the beams of light, so you don’t have to worry about your dog being burned. Your dog doesn’t even need to be shaved in the area where the laser will be used. Lasers are 100% safe with no risk of side effects. This makes laser therapy a great supplement to your dog’s normal pain management plan. Many dogs on laser therapy are able to significantly reduce the amount of pain medication they take after regular laser therapy sessions. Most dogs see a significant improvement in their quality of life within the first few sessions.
#2 – Laser therapy can be used to treat a wide variety of ailments
Laser therapy is effective on a wide variety of different problems. It is commonly used for pain management on dogs with arthritis, hip dysplasia, back pain, and degenerative disc disease. Many injuries benefit from laser therapy as well, such as muscle, ligament, or tendon injuries and post-surgical or soft tissue trauma. Surprisingly, lasers are also beneficial in the treatment of infections such as gingivitis, hot spots, open wounds, anal gland infections, and even ear infections.
#3 – It can be combined with other treatments
Unlike many medications, laser therapy isn’t contraindicated with any other treatment options. That means that it can make an excellent addition to any treatment without any worry about an increased risk of side effects or a bad reaction to combining medications that don’t work well together. Laser therapy is rarely the only treatment for a problem – it is best used in conjunction with other therapies.
#4 – Most dogs find it relaxing
The laser causes your dog’s brain to release endorphins, a feel-good chemical, and once dogs realize that they feel better after treatments, most dogs lie down and relax during the entire 5-30-minute treatment. Some dogs have even been known to fall asleep during laser therapy treatment.
#5 – Laser therapy has been used on humans for 40 years
While most consumer products these days are tried on animals long before undergoing human studies, laser therapy was originally introduced to human subjects 40 years ago. Since humans are able to verbalize whether or not they are feeling any discomfort or pain from the treatment, we can be sure that our dogs are not suffering from any ill effects that they are unable to tell us about.
#6 – It may not be prohibitively expensive
Treatment costs will vary from place to place and clinic to clinic, but a good estimate is $25-45 per session, with an average of 2 treatments per week. As the equipment used for laser therapy becomes cheaper, the costs may continue to decline. This isn’t exactly coffee money, but it isn’t something that will cost thousands of dollars either, and may significantly improve your dog’s quality of life – which may, in turn, give them more months or even years of good time before they need to cross the Rainbow Bridge. Many people will be able to find a few hundred dollars a month in their budget to buy some extra time with their beloved fur child. Also, most dogs need fewer treatments as the lasers improve their condition.
#7 – Not all vets offer it
Since the laser equipment is extremely expensive, your regular vet may not offer the service. You may need to call around to find a veterinarian who has invested in this advanced technology to improve the quality of life for their patients. As the technology becomes cheaper, hopefully more vet clinics will invest in it and offer the service to their clients.
#8 – Treatments are cumulative
When given regularly, laser treatments combine for an overall improvement. That means that the more laser therapy sessions your dog has, the better he will feel with fewer treatments. A dog with arthritis, for example, may need 2-3 treatments per week at first, but after a few weeks of treatment, their symptoms will improve enough to go down to only one treatment per week, then one every 2-3 weeks. Unlike medications that stop working once you stop taking them, the more laser therapy your dog receives, the more benefit he will see from it.
(H/T: AKCCHF, The Drake Center, Fidose of Reality, IVC Journal)