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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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. 

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Laser Therapy Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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zorro

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German Shorthair Pointer

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9 Years

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Serious severity

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Look Up Above

my 9 year old German shorthair had a mass about 2 to 3 inches in his rectum. it has been tested and is benign. they said they cant do a rectum pull out. the only other option was thru the stomach and they would have to cut thru the bones. Would a hot laser therapy or cold work on getting rid of the mass as it is affecting his pooping. and could kill him. I live in Winnetka in san Fernando valley, Los Angeles and are there any local vets who can do the producedure

June 19, 2018

zorro's Owner

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0 Recommendations

The link below is to a searchable directory of board certified Veterinary Surgeons (Specialists), you may search for a surgeon based on your zip code and distance; as for any other treatment with lasers or anything else you should discuss with the surgeon carrying out the surgery or with an Oncologist. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM https://online.acvs.org/acvsssa/rflssareferral.query_page?P_VENDOR_TY=VETS

June 20, 2018

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Troy

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German Shepherd Dog

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4 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

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Hip Dysplasia
Decreased Range Of Motion
Painful During Hip Extension

I have a 4 year old, 76 pound, german shepherd mix that was diagnosed with hip dysplasia a year ago. He was bunny hopping and going back and forth on which hip he was favoring, and had decreased ROM and would growl when his hips were extended. He is currently on 300 mg gabapentin BID and 75 mg carprofen BID and dasuquin advanced joint supplement SID. He is 99% comfortable right now, and has increased ROM in both hips without growling during extention; however, now I worry about the effect the carprofen will have on his kidneys in the future. Would you recommend laser therapy and if so, what type of transition should I make from medication to laser therapy? Thank you.

June 18, 2018

Troy's Owner

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0 Recommendations

Laser therapy has been shown to be beneficial in alleviating pain in dogs with hip dysplasia, however it is important to visit a practice familiar with laser therapy. There is no set approach to transitioning across from medication to laser therapy and it will depend on the overall severity of the hip dysplasia. You should discuss with your Veterinarian about the use of laser therapy in Troy’s case as each case is different. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.akcchf.org/canine-health/your-dogs-health/caring-for-your-dog/laser-therapy-for-dogs.html

June 19, 2018

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Bridget

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dauchund

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10 Years

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Mild severity

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1 found helpful

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Mild severity

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None

Our dog had emergency room visit,due to food she ate. after xray found to have mass on spleen. She is 10 year old dauchund/mix,with a heart murmur. Is laser surgery a less dangerous option for her

May 21, 2018

Bridget's Owner

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1 Recommendations

If there is a mass on her spleen, splenectomy would be the treatment of choice which would then allow for a sample of the mass to be sent for histopathology; I wouldn’t recommend any other course of treatment if only the spleen is affected. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.acvs.org/small-animal/splenic-masses www.acvs.org/files/proceedings/2012/data/papers/184.pdf

May 22, 2018

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patrick

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German Shepherd

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7 Years

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Serious severity

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Has Symptoms

Anal Fistula

My 7 year old German Sherpherd has severely infected anal fistulas. He has been on current treatment since October 2017, which has not been effective.He has now started laser treatment but I'm told he will never recover from this. If laser fails to improve his condition will surgery likely to be an option?

March 22, 2018

patrick's Owner

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German Shepherds are an high risk breed for perianal fistulas. Surgical treatment may be the next logical step in handling this since conservative treatment hasn’t been successful, there are many different approaches which may be taken but surgery to remove any dead tissue and to create healthy margins for healing can be useful; however recurrence rates are still high and there is a risk of suture dehiscence. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.acvs.org/small-animal/perianal-fistulas

March 22, 2018

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Charlie

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Dachshund

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12 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

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Slight Paralysis Of His Back Legs.

My 12 year old Dachshund has VDII T-12 L-1....like a herniated disk. Will laser therapy help him? He can't stand and has slight paralysis in his back legs. He currently is on a steroid therapy.

March 22, 2018

Charlie's Owner

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0 Recommendations

Cold laser therapy has shown improved recovery times after surgery, but there isn’t any data for its use as a stand alone therapy; it wouldn’t hurt but I cannot give any assurances due to lack of data. Acupuncture and chiropractic adjustments may help, discuss with your Veterinarian. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

March 22, 2018

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fred

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Labrador Retriever

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7 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

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just started meds.but now am wondering if i should have done laser first because of possable side effects of this med arthritis in hips plus partial torn cartilage in right rear leg

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Kahlua

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Bulldog/boxer

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2 Years

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Limping
Trouble Getting Up From Laying Down
Limping After Running

My 2 year old boxer/bulldog mix was diagnosed with a partial cruciate tear in her right knee. The vet recommended surgery which I am fine with but said they recommend using laser therapy after surgery to help with pain and inflammation. I have tried to find research on laser therapy after the surgery but don't see much. Does is really speed up recovery and is that really a good thing? Generally speaking because I know every animal is different but are there greater benefits to this versus pain medication and rehabbing at home? How much faster does it speed up the process? They say without it rehab could last 4-5 months.

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