When I recommend laser therapy for my patients, some pet owners look at me quizzically. “Aren’t lasers dangerous?” or “I thought lasers were used for surgery?” are common questions I hear. I hope that this blog helps answer any questions you may have about laser therapy for pets, and if you have not ever heard of this advanced treatment modality – read on to learn more!
There are a number of different types of lasers, and they are classified according to the wavelength of the laser and the energy/power output produced. There are four classes: I, II, IIIa,/b, and IV. Most everyone has a type of laser in your home – such as a CD player or laser printer. These would be considered Class I lasers. Class II lasers have a wavelength visible to the human eye – such as bar code scanners. Although safe, you should not look directly at the light for any period of time. Class III lasers are of medium power and you must be cautious of these as they can cause tissue damage if used inappropriately (especially to the sensitive tissue of the eye). An example of this type of laser is a laser pointer. Class 3 Lasers, also known as “cold lasers” were the first to be used for therapy in veterinary medicine, however the time of treatment can be lengthier and more sessions may be required to see a response compared to newer Class IV Lasers. Class IV lasers are the highest powered lasers currently used in veterinary medicine, and here at Guelph Animal Hospital we have two of them. Our Class IV Surgical Laser is used instead of a scalpel when performing surgery. In addition we have a Class IV Therapeutic Laser and rather than cutting tissues this laser is used to accelerate tissue healing while helping to reduce pain and inflammation.
Our Veterinarians and registered veterinary technicians have taken specialized training in order to safely use the Therapeutic Laser and to provide the most effective treatments. We have been very pleased with the results we have seen over the past 2-years since introducing this service for our patients.
The laser system sends photons or packets of light energy deep into tissue without causing damage. The photons are absorbed and induce a process called photo-bio-modulation. This causes production of ATP within the tissue; ATP is like the fuel or energy that cells need to have for repair and rejuvenation. Increased ATP production then leads to healthier cells, tissue, and therefore healthier animals! There are multiple clinical studies in both human and veterinary medical literature that proves that laser therapy alleviates pain and inflammation, reduces swelling, and stimulates both nerve regeneration and cells involved in tissue repair. These treatments are very well tolerated by our canine and feline friends. There are no known side effects (although we use in caution in patients with cancer) and these treatments often reduce the need for certain medications or even surgery. We don’t have to shave or prepare the area, and most treatments can be done under 10 minutes – it can take longer if we are doing multiple sites.
Here at Guelph Animal Hospital, we routinely use our therapeutic laser for the following conditions:
- Back pain/injury
- Hip dysplasia
- Hot spots
- Otitis (ear infection/inflammation)
- Post-operative wound healing
- Trauma or injury (eg. sprains/strains, cruciate ligament tears)
Although we have many, many patients that have experienced an improvement after laser treatment, one of our most dramatic cases is that of a little rescue Dachshund named “Rosie”. Rosie was a rescue from the southern US, and she had experienced a leg fracture. Her limb had been splinted but she had a lot of damaged skin that was red and in danger of becoming very infected. One of our clients was fostering Rosie and brought her to us for our opinion. We were very concerned that one of her toes needed to be amputated, and if we couldn’t get the skin to heal there was risk of her losing her leg entirely. We decided to use our laser to help with the healing and Rosie diligently came in twice weekly for laser and bandage changes. Within one week we decided her toe could be saved, and by 4 weeks of treatments her leg was completely healed! Rosie has found a forever home and we get to see her often. You would never know that she had any previous injury!
If you would like to schedule a laser therapy appointment or would like to learn more about this exciting treatment – please call and one of our Client Care Specialists will be happy to assist you.
Renee Fleming DVM