The Benefits of Laser Therapy
By Becky Lewis, RVT, CCRP
Photos by Lucky Klick Photography
Whether used on cats, dogs, horses, or other species, laser therapy can assist with improving quality of life. Laser therapy is cutting-edge technology with wide applications in animal health care. It is a noninvasive approach to assist with tissue healing (wounds), reducing inflammation, and managing pain. Often referred to as low-level light therapy, it assists with faster healing and reducing pain at the cellular level by altering the cellular activity. The deep, penetrating light allows relief of pain through the release of endorphins and stimulates the injured cells to heal at a faster rate. It works as a localized application—the laser only treats the tissues directly below the laser wand.
Often times, laser therapy is used in conjunction with the veterinarian’s medical management to effectively accelerate and improve the condition for the patient. In many canine physical rehabilitation practices, like mine, we often combine laser therapy with other noninvasive modalities such as aqua therapy or therapeutic exercises in order to get a synergistic effect, which maximizes outcomes.
There are different classes of laser therapy. The latest is the class IV, which has now been utilized in the practice setting for about six years. I chose to go with the more advanced laser as it enables deeper penetration to the cells, quicker treatment times, and faster results.
A typical laser therapy session is in a relaxed environment. There is no pain associated with the laser. Each of the light frequencies has its own unique “tingle” that stimulates cellular activity. Even the most apprehensive of pets find laser therapy relaxing, and it helps them feel better. There is no placebo effect with animals. They let you know if it is helping them or not.
Typically, most animals will start to show improvement after two to four sessions. This depends on what we are treating, and the length of time in which their condition has persisted.
I have found laser therapy to be most effective with pain management, wound healing, spinal conditions, and arthritis. I recently had a case for wound treatment on a horse, whose tail wound was treated for over two months with limited results. The equine veterinarian suggested laser therapy. After two laser treatments, the wound reduced in size by over 60 percent, with additional stimulation of hair regeneration, reduced swelling, scar tissue formation, and increased comfort. After four treatments over a two-week period, the wound was 90 percent healed and no longer required attention.
Laser therapy is a great way to help older pets move more freely. Wherever the arthritis may be, laser therapy can reach it. Many older dogs have walked out of my clinic with a spring in their step after consistent laser therapy. Spinal conditions often times greatly benefit from laser therapy as well, since the spine is directly under the skin. The laser does not have to penetrate layers, so it can effectively treat the spine and help get the results we are looking for.
The most concerning contra indication to utilizing laser therapy is cancer. Cancer does not preclude the use of laser therapy and is only recommended for areas that are cancer-free. Please check with your veterinarian or oncologist.
Bringing light to your pet through laser therapy can positively impact your pet’s quality of life.
Becky Lewis RVT, CCRP has over ten years of experience in canine rehabilitation. In 2011, she founded Motiv K9 Fitness Therapy, a state-of-the-art rehabilitation facility.
The Following Local Practices Offer Laser Treatments:
Adobe Animal Hospital, Santa Cruz
Animal Hospital at Mid Valley, Carmel
Animal Hospital of Soquel
Aptos-Creekside Pet Hospital
Capitola Veterinary Hospital
Companion Animal Hospital, Santa Cruz
Cottage Veterinary Care, Pacific Grove
Motiv K9, Salinas
Mount Madonna Veterinary Clinic, Mobile, 831-722-6800
Natural Veterinary Therapy, Pacific Grove
Parkview Veterinary Hospital, Monterey