Lasers are a part of our everyday life, but did you know they can also help our dogs feel better? Laser therapy, an up-and-coming facet of veterinary medicine is becoming an increasingly popular treatment choice for a variety of canine conditions.
The science and technology behind laser therapy
At its most basic, a laser can be described as a source of light and energy. More specifically, lasers emit a beam of light in the form of electromagnetic radiation through an optical amplification process. In fact, the word “laser” stands for “light amplification of stimulated emission of radiation.” Not all lasers are created equal, though. A laser is categorized into one of four classes recognized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) based on its wavelength and energy output. In other words, lasers are classified based on how powerful they are and their intended use:
- Class 1 lasers emit the least power and are the safest for everyday use. An example would be a barcode scanner at the store.
- Class 2 lasers are more powerful than class 1 lasers, producing a light beam within the visible light spectrum. Examples include laser pointers and some therapeutic lasers.
- Class 3 lasers pose moderate ocular safety risks when used inappropriately. Most therapeutic lasers fall into this category.
- Class 4 lasers are extremely powerful and capable of causing severe eye and skin damage. These lasers are reserved for cutting or cauterizing tissue during surgical procedures.
Laser technology is woven into many aspects of everyday life. From grocery shopping to DVD viewing to document printing, lasers benefit us in many ways. When a laser is utilized with the intent of achieving better health, it earns the label, “laser therapy”—an up-and-coming treatment modality for a variety of conditions in veterinary and human medicine.
The many uses of laser therapy
Laser therapy—also known as cold laser therapy or low-level laser therapy (LLLT)—“is the application of light to a biologic system to promote tissue regeneration, reduce inflammation and relieve pain.”1 LLLT actually alters body tissue at a cellular level, catalyzing a variety of beneficial events like increased blood flow, lymphatic drainage, collagen and enzyme production, and endorphin release. The result is a favorable environment for healing, nerve regeneration, and pain relief.
Laser therapy has become a popular treatment modality with dermatologists, veterinarians, dentists, physical therapists, and other medical professionals for treating painful, inflammatory conditions and wounds.
The benefits of veterinary laser therapy for dogs
Veterinarians often recommend laser therapy, including laser therapy for dogs at home as part of a multi-modal approach to treating certain diseases in dogs. Some of the most common conditions for which laser therapy is elected include:
- Hip or elbow dysplasia
- Intervertebral disc disease
- Tendon, ligament, or muscle injuries
- Surgical wounds
- Lick granulomas
- Allergic skin disease
Given its healing and regenerative benefits, laser therapy may be helpful in treating many other canine conditions, although research is still developing in this field. Some of the more powerful effects reported with laser therapy include decreased pain and inflammation, increased patient comfort, and improved wound healing.
Laser therapy not only offers medical benefits but sessions can be completed on an outpatient basis within 15 to 30 minutes. Depending on your pet’s condition and your veterinarian’s recommendations, laser therapy may help your pet achieve results in just a few sessions. For pets with longstanding disease or more chronic issues, therapy may need to be continued for a longer period of time before benefits are observed. Additionally, laser therapy has an excellent safety profile when used properly and with appropriate eye protection. Some products, like the B-Cure Laser Vet, can even be purchased and utilized safely at home under your veterinarian’s guidance.
To learn more about low-level laser therapy or to see if your dog is a good candidate for treatment, contact your family veterinarian.