Last Updated on April 7, 2022 by Dogs Vets
Laser therapy is an emerging treatment in veterinary medicine, popular for its healing effects and ease of use. But what is this innovative therapy and why is it beneficial for dogs and their owners? Read on to learn the basics about this increasingly popular therapeutic option.
What is cold laser therapy?
The term “laser” is an acronym for “light amplification of stimulated emission of radiation.” In layman’s terms, a laser is comprised of concentrated light beams that vary in wavelength and energy output depending on its use.
Cold laser therapy—also known as low-level laser therapy—earns its name because it utilizes low levels of light that modify tissues without causing damage.
In contrast, “hot” or “thermal” lasers emit more powerful beams that can be used to cut or vaporize body tissue during surgical procedures. Other, less powerful lasers include barcode scanners and laser pointers.
Each type of laser is categorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) according to its wavelength and energy output into one of 4 classes.
Low-level therapeutic lasers are generally designated as Class 3 lasers although some models fall under Class 2B.
How can cold laser therapy help my dog?
Cold lasers use a specific wavelength (usually between 600 and 1000 nm) that leads to photobiomodulation or, the manipulation of body tissue at a cellular level.
While research is still evolving in the field of laser therapy, it appears that cold laser therapy can offer a host of biological benefits to the recipient by catalyzing a series of events that encourage tissue repair. For instance, low-level laser therapy seems to cause:
- Improved blood flow
- Improved lymphatic drainage
- Endorphin release
- Increased protein synthesis
- Increased production of tissue-repairing substances like collagen and Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP)
By triggering these beneficial physiological activities, low-level laser therapy can reduce inflammation, accelerate wound healing, and decrease pain.
Virtually any dog can reap the benefits of cold laser therapy but those with underlying health conditions may find its healing potential particularly valuable.
Laser therapy is often recommended for dogs with osteoarthritis, musculoskeletal injuries, intervertebral disc disease, hip dysplasia, and for dogs recovering from surgery.
Even pets with liver disease and other organ dysfunction may experience the favourable effects of low-level laser therapy.
Why should I try cold laser therapy for my dog?
The potential health benefits of low-level laser therapy for dogs at home are reason enough to pursue a treatment trial, assuming your pet has a medical need for it. But, this minimally invasive therapy offers other benefits, too.
Laser therapy is a painless procedure that many pets seem to find enjoyable. Most sessions are fairly short, lasting anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes.
Your veterinarian may perform the laser therapy or you may be referred to a speciality hospital for your sessions.
Many veterinary facilities that offer cold laser therapy also offer additional services like physical therapy, hydrotherapy, or acupuncture, which can be pursued alongside laser therapy for a multi-modal approach to your pet’s condition.
Overall, laser therapy is very safe, so long as it is performed correctly and with a few precautions in place. Class 3 lasers can cause retinal damage if the beam is directed into the eye. For this reason, most facilities require that patients, practitioners, and anyone else attending the laser session wear special goggles to minimize this risk.
Some Class 2B therapeutic lasers do not pose an ocular hazard and can even be purchased by pet owners to use in the comfort of their own homes under the guidance of a veterinarian.
To learn more about cold laser therapy or to see if your canine companion is a good candidate for treatment, consult your family veterinarian.
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