What if we told you there was an effective, non-invasive, drug-free, and relatively inexpensive way to treat joint issues like arthritis, tendon and ligament injuries, surgical wounds, and a host of other conditions in your dog… one that would cause them absolutely no pain and that they may even like? Enter Cold Laser Therapy.
Although using Cold Laser Therapy (CLT) on dogs is a relatively new practice in the United States and still considered somewhat “fringe,” it’s gaining popularity as more and more veterinarians see results. Effective in decreasing inflammation, alleviating chronic or acute pain, and stimulating healing, CLT may be just the thing to help your dog feel better and heal faster.
We’ve asked CLT expert and veterinary extraordinaire Dr. Gabby Varcoe to answer our top questions that will help you decide if CLT is right for your pup.
How Does CLT Work?
LASER stands for “Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation.” When many people think of lasers, they may think of burning rays like in movies or lasers used to cut tissue during surgeries. The lasers used in CLT are “colder,” with a shorter wavelength, which makes them effective as therapeutic tools.
How laser therapy works (in both dogs and humans) is the laser emits photons, or light energy, into the tissue of the damaged area/s. These photons work at the level of the cell (the mitochondria), causing a process called “photobiomodulation”. Photobiomodulation produces ATP, which is the fuel needed to improve the function of the injured cells and accelerate their regeneration. This means less inflammation, less pain, and faster healing for your dog.
What Types of Conditions Does CLT Help?
CLT can be used to treat a number of different conditions, including chronic conditions and post-operative conditions. These include:
- Tendon and ligament injuries
- Muscle injuries and wounds (such as surgical or bite wounds)
- Neurological conditions
- Muscle sprains or strains
What Are the Benefits of CLT?
There are benefits of CLT are numerous. Laser therapy is effective, convenient, and relatively inexpensive. The treatments are non-invasive, drug-free, and can be used in conjunction with existing treatments. They’re also totally pain-free and many pets enjoy them since they are relaxing and feel good.
Laser therapy helps to reduce inflammation, decrease pain, increase mobility, and stimulate faster healing in injured cells. It assists in stimulating collagen synthesis (which enhances wound healing), promotes tendon, cartilage, nerve, and bone healing, and reduces swelling from injury or infection.
CLT can be used for acute problems like wounds or ear infections, as well as long-term for maintenance with certain conditions such as arthritis. This can be great since some older pets may not tolerate pain medications. It can also be used with medications and other modalities to enhance the effects of each.
What Can I Expect at my Dog’s CLT Appointment?
One of the best things about CLT is that the whole process is extremely painless – for both you and your dog. Your pet will sit or lay down calmly while the laser is placed over the affected area, and either held in place or moved around in that area for a specific amount of time. This will not cause your dog any pain. Their fur does not have to be shaved and in most instances, nothing is even applied to the fur. You may need to put on some protective goggles, as looking at the laser beam can cause eye damage.
Appointment times will vary depending on the circumstances, lasting about 10-30 minutes. For example, dogs with arthritis in multiple joints may take half an hour, whereas a dog with an ear infection may take less than 10 minutes.
How Much Does CLT Cost?
Most CLT treatments cost between $20-50 per session. The price will vary depending on your veterinarian and if they charge per laser treatment or by the number of areas being treated. You can also usually save money by purchasing multiple treatments as a bundle.
Will CLT Cause My Dog Pain? What Are the Side Effects?
Laser therapy is totally pain-free and can be very comforting for your dog. In fact, many pups find it so relaxing they may even fall asleep. CLT also has minimal to no side effects. The majority of pets do not act any different, aside from the positive effects many pet parents report, including increased energy and improved mobility.
How Soon Will I See Results?
The effects of laser therapy treatments are cumulative in nature, so I usually tell my clients not to expect a 180° change right away. While a positive response to treatment may not occur in just one session, the affected area usually begins to feel better 12 to 24 hours afterwards. Significant improvements should be seen in the second week of treatments.
What Is Your Favorite CLT Success Story?
I have used laser therapy successfully for so many dogs and conditions that it’s hard to pick just one, so I’ll tell you about a couple.
I used CLT to treat a golden retriever with a very large hotspot on his neck (a hotspot is basically anything that irritates the skin like an allergic reaction, bite, infection, etc., causing the dog to scratch or lick at it excessively). He had just been treated for another hotspot the week before using antibiotics, but his owner was hesitant to do another round since the pills had given him an upset stomach. We started daily laser therapy treatments and luckily, were able to resolve his infection with just the CLT and save his poor stomach.
Another case (which will show you the wide range of conditions CLT can help with), was when I used it on a dog that had just undergone surgery for intervertebral disc disease. Laser therapy was effective in helping to heal the skin incision after surgery, as well as to decrease inflammation at the spine – saving this pup a lot of pain.
In conclusion, I use laser therapy daily in my practice and have been thrilled with the results. It is a great therapy option and wonderful to add in conjunction with other treatments. If you have even the slightest inkling that CLT may help your pet, I highly urge you to speak to your veterinarian to see if it’s right for you.