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.

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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.

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. 

Laser Therapy Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Apu
Labrador Retriever
13.5
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

I have a 13.5 Labrador retriever. He has progressively been loosing muscle mass on his hips and back legs, he can no longer go up stairs and frequently falls when he is trying to jump. Would laser therapy help him?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1506 Recommendations
It depends on the specific underlying cause, if there is a spinal issue like a disc protrusion then laser therapy wouldn’t be beneficial but in other cases laser therapy can be useful and can show good results after just one or two sessions. You should visit your Veterinarian first to evaluate Apu first. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Jasper
Beagle
7 Months
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

no symptoms

Hello,

My puppy fractured his oblique and unfortunately required surgery. The doctor inserted pins and plates and advised to restrict his activity tremendously. He is a very hyper beagle so it’s hard for him to stay still and he’s 7 months old. The doctor didn’t see much of an improvement with his first X-ray but the bone was starting to attach when the second x-ray was done. Under the advise of his doctor, he highly recommended keeping my puppy at the hospital to restrict his activity and keep an eye on him. He is now on a harder cast and a smaller crate. We are now at about 4 weeks since the surgery. His doctor advised maybe about 2-3 more weeks before the bone should be fully healed. Is 2-3 weeks enough time for the bone to heal ideally if he’s restricted to a crate and on a hard cast? Unfortunately, we didn’t see much improvement the first 2 weeks post surgery due to him moving around too much. Also, they advised they will be doing laser therapy. I am concerned about stiffness of the leg since he’s not moving it. Will laser therapy help with that? Is it normal for a fractured bone to take this long to heal? Please advise as i really just want my puppy home and healthy again.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1506 Recommendations
Bone healing time varies with age, but generally a young pup should heal within a few weeks (six to eight) in simple cases; more complex cases may take as long as ten weeks or more especially if there was excessive movement. Low level laser therapy has been shown beneficial in some studies in helping the healing process. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Delilah
Labrador Retriever
8 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Limping, slow to rise or jump
Limping,

My dog has arthritis in one shoulder and front legs. She used to only have issues occasionally, but now her symptoms are more frequent. She takes anti-inflammatory and pain meds as needed, but I was interested in laser therapy. After her initial sessions are complete, how long can I expect the good results to last? A co-worker had success with their dog for almost a year after their session, but I wasn't sure if that length of time was common. I'm desperate to make her feel better and back to playing frisbee. Any tips or feedback is appreciated. Thanks for your help.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1506 Recommendations
Laser therapy works on a case by case basis depending on the severity of the arthritis and the length of time since signs initially presented; there are good results with laser therapy however I must insist that no matter how much Delilah improves it wouldn’t be advisable for her to have high impact exercise as this may aggravate the joint(s) and lead to other issues. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Bounce
OES
11 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Hip issues trouble getting up and d
Hip issues

I've noticed that different techs use different techniques when giving the treatment,one holds wand in place until machine beeps then moves to different spot while another tech moves the wand back and forth over the areas. Does this matter?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1506 Recommendations
It is generally acknowledged that overstimulation of an area may cause more harm than good, but bear in mind that there are different machines, different types of lasers and different settings; it may be that one Tech is using a setting which gives a measured dose to an area whilst the other uses a different setting moving the wand over the area. Since there are different machines and types of laser I would ask about both techniques and discuss the equipment etc… Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Cooper
GWP
7 Years
Moderate condition
1 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

asymetric weight bearing
limp mild

My 7-year-old German Wirehaired Pointer is an advanced level competition obedience dog. He has recently been diagnosed (X rays and evaluation from orthopediic vet; no MRI) with a probable partial ACL tear. Rest, anti-inflamatories (carprofin) and adequan. Are laser treatments a good idea also? Is it too early to do rehab or should I wait until he's better? What would you do if he were your dog?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1506 Recommendations

Partial tears in the cruciate ligaments can be managed in a few different ways; regardless of your approach always remember that rest is best, too many people especially who compete their dogs do not allow their dog to rest. As for laser therapy, there is little supportive literature for its use; there has been a few articles published on the use of stem cells in the treatment of cranial cruciate ligament injuries; as for rehab, I would probably wait a bit longer. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5155010/
www.vet-stem.com/testimonials_smallanimal.php

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Keys
American bulldog
11 Years
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Swelling

My dog is 11yrs old. I did bring him to our vet for a reason that he's limping and he's left foot is swelling, took some xray but nothing found. Now he's getting worse and its hard for him to walk and stand up, i called Mobil vet and they came over and he said he's very sick and we need to put down, but he still eat and we think that there's solution.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1506 Recommendations

It is difficult to give advice online without examining a patient as many times 80% or more information needed to make a diagnosis is based on a physical examination and other test results. I understand you are wanting to do everything that you can to help Keys; the swelling and movement difficulties could be attributable to many different causes which would need to be investigated by a Veterinarian. I know that you have seen two Veterinarians already, but visiting a third may shed some light on things. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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general
German Shepherd
11 1/2
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

severe restlessness,anxiety,insomnia

my 11 year old german shepherd had what i consider to be a bad reaction to laser therapy,it caused him significant distress during treatment of back and hips,i terminated after two treatments,and he hasnt been right since,sufficant increase in stress and anxiety and ive tried everything to get him to sleep,its all failed,im at the bottom of a barrel,he did not like the laser and had to be held,i believe this laser is the whole cause of his state of disarray now.thoughts on how to get his sleep back,ive tried muscle relaxers,melotonin,tramadol and xanax all ineffective,help.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1506 Recommendations

Most animals respond well to laser therapy, the fact that General responded badly should have been a reason for stopping treatment immediately. Anxiety and stress can be difficult to manage, without examining General I cannot really give you any insights; it may be that General is in more pain causing discomfort and difficulty sleeping. I really cannot help unfortunately in this case. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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