As a veterinarian, I have spent the past 15 years researching and introducing new treatment options for my patients. I love practicing integrative veterinary medicine, because it gives me the best of both worlds. I can offer the traditional medicine and surgeries taught to me at veterinary school, or I can choose from a myriad of holistic treatment options like acupuncture, homeopathy, chiropractic and more.
As a proactive, integrative veterinarian, I strive to combine the best traditional and alternative medical therapies to improve the health of every patient I treat. One of the most-used tools in my tool chest is the Class IV Cold Laser therapy machine, which treats pain and chronic inflammation among other illnesses and injuries in dogs.
Laser stands for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission Rays. Interestingly, this is one of the few modalities of treatment where humans have been the guinea pigs first. Laser therapy has been a staple in human physical therapy programs for at least 40 years.
The benefits of laser therapy can’t be overstated. It not only hastens healing, but it also actually improves the way tissue repairs and renews itself. In post-operative patients, laser treatments reduce the risk of complications and act as a potent pain reliever by stimulating the release of your dog’s own endorphins thus diminishing the need for large doses of pain medication.
Patients don’t need to be sedated. No drugs are involved. There are no IV lines and no invasive clipping of hair or cutting into the skin. Lasers can reverse muscle atrophy and improve tendon and ligament strength and resilience. Range of motion, function, flexibility, and mobility are all enhanced. In addition, the probability of re-injury is significantly less. Pets get back on their feet and return to their normal activities faster.
Generally, veterinarians will spend time with you in consultation to plan your pet’s therapy. The laser treatments are usually done by experienced laser-certified technicians. The treatments take about 15 to 30 minutes. Typically, you will be placed in a quiet room with dimmed lights, and your dog will be invited to lay comfortably on a cushion or dog bed on the floor (sometimes on the table if smaller dogs feel more secure there). Sometimes a nurse or technician will often offer flower essences like Rescue Remedy to relax your pet. Those in the room are asked to wear protective eye goggles (optional for dogs, since it commonly stresses them out to wear “Doggles,” and they are rarely in a position to look directly into the beam).
The treatment involves moving the laser in gentle stroking fashion along the treatment area, which produces a warm, relaxing sensation for your pet. The laser is never held in one place long enough to become overly warm or to “burn.” In many cases, the treatment is so relaxing that dogs will fall asleep.
Most pets benefit from the therapy within the first one to three sessions, which are usually scheduled in the first weeks of treatment. Thereafter, sessions are reduced in frequency to a maintenance schedule based on the duration of benefit for your pet, usually every two to four weeks.
The cost of laser treatment depends on the number of joints and areas requiring treatment. A single treatment can cost about $45; some clinics offer laser packages where anywhere from four to eight treatments can be pre-purchased at a discount. Class IV laser therapy treatments are cumulative, meaning each treatment builds on prior treatments and the animal’s condition improves continuously with repeated treatments over time. At my clinic, the first treatment is complimentary to introduce you and your dog to the experience of the treatment. Many pet insurance companies cover the cost of therapy for certain injuries and conditions.
Laser therapy is recommended for many different injuries and conditions in pets. It is most commonly used for chronic arthritis in older dogs, acute tendon and ligament injuries like CCL tears in knees, and spinal injuries like herniated disks and nerve damage from pinched nerves in the neck. We also use it to treat chronic inflammation from severe gum disease as well as skin and ear infections that won’t heal with traditional medication.
Some veterinarians are also using the laser to encourage speedier recovery from spay and other surgeries by offering a single treatment to the post-op incision before your pet wakes up
Although it is only one tool in an arsenal of holistic modalities, laser therapy is an option I especially love, because it can restore quality of life to dogs with a wide range of incapacitating health conditions with minimal side effects and allows us to eliminate the use of potentially harmful drugs and expensive surgeries.
For more information on laser therapy visit these websites and articles: K-Laser.com/pet-owners, TribLive.com/Lifestyles/MoreLifestyles/3400074-74/Laser-Says-Treatment, and SacBee.com/Entertainment/Living/Pets/Article2619685.html.
Jenny Taylor, D.V.M., founded Creature Comfort Holistic Veterinary Center, one of the few completely integrative veterinary clinics in the Bay Area, in 2001. Creature Comfort, 2501 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland, 510-530-1373, offers traditional Western medicine and surgery integrated with holistic modalities. All Creature Comfort doctors are licensed DVMs who have extensive training and certification in acupuncture and Chinese medicine, homeopathy, chiropractic and massage therapies, prolotherapy, nutritional counseling including raw food diets, cold laser therapy, and many more naturopathic alternatives. Visit CreatureComfort.com for more information.
Main article photo by: Creature Comfort Holistic Veterinary Center