What is Laser Therapy?
Laser therapy is used to treat a variety of medical conditions in dogs. Lasers are beams of light travelling at predetermined frequencies that penetrate tissues and cause chemical reactions in targeted cells. These reactions, also known as photobiostimulation, result in changes to cell metabolism, increased circulation, and decreased inflammation and pain. Cell metabolism is changed through increasing Adenosine-triphosphate levels, which acts as fuel for cells. Circulation increase is triggered when laser light causes photochemical reactions that increase blood flow. Increased blood flow results in improved cellular growth, improved functioning, repair processes at the cellular level, and the production of beneficial compounds including enzymes, DNA, RNA, immunoglobulins and protein that cells use to grow and restore functioning. In addition, laser light causes the release of endorphins that act as painkillers and antiinflammatories. Control of inflammation is important in allowing tissues to regenerate.
There are different types of lasers; hot lasers and cold lasers, with varying frequencies and uses. Cold lasers use light to stimulate cells at the surface of the skin and increase circulation and cell regrowth. They are used to treat disorders such as arthritis, muscular injuries or wounds on or near the skin surface and promote healing. Hot lasers are able to treat deeper tissues. Laser therapy can be used to treat disorders in a relatively non-invasive way without the use of surgery or drugs that which would involve side effects and longer recovery periods. Not all veterinary practices have the equipment to deliver this treatment. If deemed necessary, your veterinarian can direct you to the nearest facility equipped to deliver this therapy.
Laser Therapy Procedure in Dogs
Your veterinary laser therapist will perform a complete physical exam of your dog and may take x-rays so they have a complete understanding of the issues affecting your dog. A laser treatment plan will be developed as appropriate. Number of treatments, type of laser and duration of exposure will all be part of this plan.
During your dog's laser therapy session the laser operator will wear protective eye coverings. Your dog's eyes will be directed away from the laser or possibly covered with a towel or other eye protection. There is no need to remove hair from the area being treated so clipping is not necessary, nor does your dog need to be sedated during the process. Your veterinarian will move the laser “wand” over the treatment area to delivered the laser to affected tissues. Depending on the issue being treated the exposure to the laser may require 10-20 minutes. Treatment usually starts out a couple of times per week then decreases to once a week or once every two weeks as healing progresses.
Efficacy of Laser Therapy in Dogs
Veterinary laser therapy has been shown to be effective for pets experiencing pain and inflammation and for healing of wounds. It provides a surgery-free, drug-free way to treat a variety of conditions that involves stimulating the body to heal itself.
In some dogs, the effectiveness of laser therapy can be seen shortly after treatment is initiated. Most conditions require a few treatments before improvement in condition is seen, and depending on the severity of the issue being treated, multiple treatments may be required before noticeable improvement occurs. Used postoperatively, it can reduce the risk of complications. It has also been shown to have long lasting effects on conditions with less chance of recurrence of the condition.
Laser Therapy Recovery in Dogs
Dogs usually find laser therapy to be stress-free and even relaxing. Since there is no anesthesia or sedation and therapy is non-invasive, your dog's recovery period is negligible. After treatment your dog may be less active due to relaxation, or, if pain and inflammation are affected your dog may increase its activity due to feeling better. As with any treatment, you should monitor your dog to ensure that any changes in his/her condition that would indicate concern are addressed with your veterinarian.
Cost of Laser Therapy in Dogs
The cost of laser therapy ranges from $25 to $50 per session, depending on the length of exposure required. Dogs may require a couple of sessions a week to start, with frequency declining as treatment progresses. Treatment can go on for several weeks. The alternative cost of medication or surgical intervention is usually comparable or greater than the cost of laser therapy.
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Dog Laser Therapy Considerations
Most medical lasers (class 3) are low-risk and will not cause side effects. Some more powerful medical lasers (class 4) are associated with an increased risk of burning. Be sure to discuss options with your veterinary laser therapy provider prior to the procedure. Laser therapy tends to be much less invasive than other traditional treatment methods and the risks are less than with other types of intervention.
Laser Therapy Prevention in Dogs
The most common conditions treated with laser therapy are musculoskeletal conditions and injuries such as sprains and strains. Ensuring your dog has a safe play environment where they can avoid injury is important. A secure fenced-in area for off-leash play is important in decreasing the risk of injury from automobile accidents or fights with other dogs. Keep your dog on a leash when out of a controlled area to reduce the chance or traumatic injury. Also, a dog that is well-exercised and fit is less likely to experience injury. Frequent walks are beneficial for both you and your dog.
Closely monitoring your dog's medical condition and routine monitoring by a veterinarian to address any concerns that develop will allow conditions to be treated before they become problematic. A healthy diet and regular veterinary visits are recommended.