Laser therapy – what on earth is that?? Laser therapy is the use of a non-invasive, painless laser light to heal damaged tissues; the fancy term is photobiomodulation. Therapeutic lasers have been around for a few decades, but have been becoming more mainstream in veterinary medicine over the past several years. Laser therapy can be very useful for a wide variety of species, including dogs, cats, birds, reptiles, guinea pigs, rabbits and more! It is important to note that therapeutic lasers are different from surgical lasers; therapeutic lasers are utilized to heal damaged tissues, whereas surgical lasers are used to cut during surgery.
Laser therapy works at the cellular level. Laser light with a wavelength between 600-1000nm (visible light, by comparison, is 400-700nm) activates mitochondria (think mini power plants) in cells, stimulating cellular activity. This stimulation has a cascading effect, increasing cellular energy production and protein synthesis, which increases cell growth and proliferation (division). The specific laser light also helps stimulate the growth of new blood vessels, nerves and fibroblasts. Fibroblasts help create collagen and help with wound contraction (making the size of the wound shrink as it heals). Not only will the laser light help increase cellular activity, but it will also help alleviate pain and inflammation. Not all lasers are created equally; for example, your laser pointer that you use for presentations (or to play with the cat) is not going to be the right laser to heal a sore knee or a thermal burn.
Laser therapy has many uses in veterinary medicine. Laser therapy can be used for chronically painful conditions, such as arthritis, and for acutely painful conditions such as trauma or sporting injuries. Most commonly, laser therapy has been utilized to help alleviate inflammation and soreness in joints and in the back (compressed intervertebral discs), but it can be used on most types of “-itis”… otitis (ear infections), anal sacculitis (inflamed/infected anal glands), gingivitis (inflamed gums), allergic dermatitis (skin inflammation due to allergies), cystitis (bladder inflammation), etc. Laser therapy can also be used to stimulate healing of wounds and other damaged tissue, and can actually help wounds heal or close faster. There are a few problems that will not benefit from laser therapy: ocular problems and cancer, to name a couple. The laser light can be damaging to the eyes, so we certainly don’t want to use the laser for any ocular issues. Because photobiomodulation increases cellular activity, we definitely don’t want to cause cancer cells to become even more active. The definition of neoplasia (cancer) is unregulated cell growth; photobiomodulation can just exacerbate that uncontrolled cell proliferation.
Treatment with laser therapy typically lasts 2-10 minutes, depending on the area being treated. During a laser therapy treatment, you pet can rest comfortably while one of our experienced staff members administers the treatment. Pets will usually wear goggles to protect their eyes from the light. The laser is non-painful, and most pets don’t notice anything abnormal is going on. Most clients start to notice positive effects from the laser therapy in 1-3 treatments. In some cases only one laser treatment may be necessary, such as laser therapy immediately following a spay or castration surgery to speed the healing time of the incision and reduce inflammation. Some conditions will benefit from regularly repeated treatments, especially chronic conditions, such as arthritis. In some of these cases, with the regular use of laser therapy, oral pain medication doses can be reduced or even eliminated. When laser therapy is used properly, there are no known side effects! Your veterinarian will help determine how many and how frequently treatments should be administered.
We are pleased to offer laser therapy as an effective, painless treatment option for our patients to help ease their pain, and get them back to feeling themselves quicker. Please give us a call to schedule an appointment!