When you hear the word “laser” you probably think of laser pointers, security systems in action movies, or fancy surgical instruments. When we talk about laser therapy for dogs though, it’s in reference to what is called a “cold laser”. It’s a laser that operates at a lower frequency wavelength than surgical lasers (which are meant to cut and cauterize). Cold laser is a warming energy source that stimulates the body’s normal functions that improve healing, reduce inflammation and pain, and increase blood flow in the area that’s being treated.
Is Laser Therapy for Dogs Safe?
Researchers have spent a lot of time researching the safety of therapeutic laser treatments. First let’s acknowledge that there isn’t any form of treatment in the world that is 100% safe (even natural and herbal remedies can have some dangerous side effects!) While there’s no guarantee that a patient won’t have an adverse response to laser therapy, the risk is incredibly low as long as the laser unit is extensively tested and shown to be safe, and as long as the person performing the laser treatment is a professional who has been adequately trained.
Most companies who produce therapeutic laser units provide their own training guidance, led by experienced professionals. They also provide user guides and treatment manuals so that veterinary medical professionals can safely customize treatment plans.
Conditions Dog Laser Therapy in White Bear Lake, MN Treats
Veterinarians and researchers have found benefit in using dog laser therapy for a wide variety of conditions. One of the most common applications is for post-operative healing after surgery. Often, it is used as an adjunctive (supplemental) management option for dog arthritis. Beyond that, it has indications for skin diseases, wound healing, and even chronic ear infections.
Because dog laser therapy promotes accelerated healing, and reduces pain and inflammation, it’s ideal to use after most surgeries, from routine spays and neuters, minor or major laceration repairs, or even advanced abdominal surgeries.
Evidence and recommendations about its use for cancerous lesions is conflicting though. While the laser itself doesn’t promote cancerous cell development or growth, the accelerated healing and increased blood flow properties could potentially create an environment where existing cancerous cells will flourish. If your dog is otherwise a candidate for laser therapy, but has a history of cancer, it’s important to talk with your veterinarian about your options.
Laser therapy is hugely popular amongst veterinary professionals as part of a comprehensive arthritis management plan. Arthritis in dogs is more than just painful joints. The reason behind the pain is an important thing to consider. Arthritis is, by definition, inflammation associated with one or multiple joints. Arthritis can have a variety of origins, ranging from bacterial infections, to immune disease, to injuries. The most common cause of arthritis, though, is age related change that leads to a loss of the soft, cushiony parts that are within the joint. When bones lose their cushion, the joint starts to degenerate, or break down. This leads to inflammation, swelling, and then causes pain.
Laser therapy can help increase blood flow to the affected joint and reduce inflammation. Increased blood flow can stimulate healing, which won’t reverse joint changes but MIGHT slow progression. Reducing inflammation is perhaps the most important benefit- reducing inflammation reduces pain. And pain reduction keeps our pets comfortable.
While laser therapy can’t cure any of the root causes of joint inflammation and arthritis, it can help manage the symptoms when used as part of a full management plan that also includes anti-inflammatory medications or supplements, physical therapy and gentle exercise, and other pain medications as needed.
Allergies and Skin Infections
As with arthritis, while laser therapy won’t cure allergic skin disease or skin infections it can be incredibly useful in addition to treatment for the cause of the condition. It’s important to use a prescription allergy treatment for long-term management of allergies, but laser therapy can help heal skin that is damaged secondary to allergic inflammation and frequent scratching/chewing.
Skin infections can also benefit. While antibiotics are important to disrupt the existing bacterial or yeast population, laser therapy can improve healing and reduce inflammation in the treated area. This improves patient comfort, and can interrupt the vicious cycle of infection, inflammation, discomfort, chewing and scratching, skin damage and worsening infection.
Dog laser therapy can also be effective at managing a variety of wounds. Revisiting the properties of laser therapy, wounds are hotbeds for inflammation and pain that can benefit from healing stimulation and increased blood flow. And this isn’t limited to lacerations that need to be closed up. Wounds can include infected hot spots, bites and punctures, and traumatic degloving (skin stripped off) wounds from car accidents, running in the woods, or scuffing on the ground. Wounds that will take a long time to heal might just heal faster, and more effectively, when dog laser therapy is used in addition to good wound management practices.
Any dog can get an ear infection, but there are some breeds that are more prone. Any dog with a flopped-over ear is at increased risk, especially those with pendulous (hanging down) ears like hounds and cocker spaniels. Even poodles can have issues, if they tend to have a lot of hair down in the ear canal. Dogs with allergies can end up with chronic ear issues too.
Ears that are already inflamed are more likely to develop build-up of waxy debris and foreign material. When this happens, it becomes a breeding ground for bacteria or yeast, which causes even more inflammation, in addition to foul smelling discharge, and a lot of pain. While the ears are being treated by a veterinarian for infection, adding dog laser therapy treatments can help those ears quiet down even faster.
Talk with Your Vet About Laser Therapy for Dogs
Always go to a licensed veterinarian for a consultation before proceeding with any kind of laser therapy, and always seek treatment through an animal hospital that offers the service themselves. “Light therapy” devices available in stores or online are not the same as therapeutic lasers. They are glorified flashlights that have no clinical testing or proven efficacy in animals. Despite strategic marketing, these devices are a waste of your money. While it will be more expensive to seek laser treatment through an animal hospital, you’re paying for trained veterinary medical professionals to perform prescribed treatments on your beloved animal using devices with proven benefits.
About Birch Lake Animal Hospital
The staff at Birch Lake Animal Hospital seeks to provide the best possible medical care for our highly-valued patients and clients.