Veterinary medicine is ever improving with the help of advanced technologies. Many veterinary clinics have equipment to run blood work in-office for fast results. Digital X-rays are making it easier to accurately diagnose certain diseases. Another recent addition to our treatment toolbox is low-level therapeutic lasers.
Therapeutic lasers are sometimes called “cold” lasers to differentiate them from surgical, cutting lasers that burn through tissue. Although therapeutic lasers share the same basic technology as surgical lasers, low-level lasers do not generate anywhere near the same level of heat.
Lasers generate a very special form of light energy. The light emitted by lasers is organized so that the light waves are synchronized. This allows the energy to be focused in a way that it can penetrate the tissues of the body, allowing the effects to infiltrate deeply. Laser therapy is sometimes called photomedicine because it treats the body by delivering light energy.
Laser therapy is considered alternative medicine because the research into how it works is in its infancy. We know that lasers deliver photons to the mitochondria of the cells. The mitochondria are the power stations of the cell which produce ATP, the universal cellular energy currency. As the light energy is absorbed by the mitochondria, energy production is enhanced which allows the cell to function better, encouraging tissue health.
Cold lasers dilate blood vessels which improves blood circulation to injured tissue. This brings in more oxygen and flushes out waste and debris which speeds healing. Laser light activates skin cells and connective tissue to replicate and regenerate. It can help draw in new blood and lymphatic vessels and decrease inflammation and pain.
There is a wide range of uses for therapeutic lasers. They speed the healing of skin wounds and surgical incisions. They can greatly improve lick granulomas, AKA hot spots. Lasers are great for any kind of soft tissue injuries such as sprains, strains and partial ligament tears. They can speed recovery from disc disease and other back issues as well as musculoskeletal pain such as arthritis. Hard to treat inflammatory problems like severe ear infections in dogs and stomatitis in cats benefit from laser therapy. A special laser probe can even be used in place of needles to treat acupuncture points.
Therapeutic lasers are differentiated into classes based on the level of energy they produce; the higher the energy output, the higher the class. Class 3B and Class 4 lasers put out a level of energy that may require those in the treatment room, including the pet, to wear special protective glasses due to the potential for eye damage if the laser beam strikes the retina. Some of these lasers produce heat in the tissue being treated requiring the laser operator to have the skill and knowledge to do no harm.
Class 3R and lower lasers do not require these precautions. All therapeutic lasers penetrate the tissue equally and have the same healing effects. The only difference is that the higher class lasers require less treatment time.
Depending on the type of laser and the size of the treatment area, the therapy session may last from 3-15 minutes per treatment site. The frequency and total number of treatments needed depends on the condition being treated. Some problems require every-other-day treatments for a few days to weeks while others may necessitate weekly treatments for a several months. The wonderful thing about laser therapy is the rarity of any side effects when used properly, with overheating of the tissue being the only concern.
If your pet has any kind of injury or inflammatory problem, consider laser therapy. You have nothing to lose but your pet’s pain. This treatment is becoming more widely available which means that very soon it will no longer be considered “alternative medicine.”
Has your pet benefited from laser therapy?