Medical lasers have been used by varied specialists for years, and now many veterinarians have implemented the technology for use with their canine patients.
Lasers are increasingly relied on by animal hospitals and veterinarians for surgery as well as therapeutic treatments, most often for joint-related issues. The medical lasers used are not wholly different from those used for treating humans.
Including laser therapy with conventional treatments benefits patients as well as the practice’s bottom line, said Dr. Cindy A. Grant, a veterinarian with Animal Rehabilitation and Fitness Clinic Inc. in Birmingham, Alabama. In a January 2012 Veterinary Practice News article, Dr. Grant says she primarily uses laser therapy to treat osteoarthritis in geriatric dogs and cats. Often, these animals have other medical conditions and are taking medications for those. Adding more medications for pain management and/or treating inflammation might be detrimental or contraindicated, making laser therapy an ideal option.
Patients often show some improvement in three treatments, she says, although a series of six treatments is typically suggested.
Benefits of Laser Therapy
Cold lasers stimulate healing in tissues through several means, including dilating blood and lymph vessels. Laser therapy, Dr. Grant reports, increases her patients’ quality of life, decreases pain and increases their mobility as well as the rate of healing. There is also no manipulation of the affected areas or any pain associated with applying the laser, and treatment reportedly takes minutes. Patients seem to enjoy their treatments, says Dr. Grant.
An American Bulldog with a torn cranial cruciate ligament unable to be treated with surgery was prescribed a regime of laser and hydrotherapy by Dr. Grant. After six months, the dog was able to take short walks and also lost weight. Weight gain is common in animals with osteoarthritis that are less active as a result of the pain and decreased flexibility common with this condition.
Wide Variety of Uses
Ardmore Animal Hospital, an AAHA-accredited veterinary hospital in Pennsylvania, was one of the first veterinary hospitals in the United States to perform laser surgery.
The hospital uses lasers for a wide variety of procedures including spaying and neutering, tumor removal and some dental treatments. Lasers are also used to treat brachiocephalic dogs — breeds including shih tzus, pugs, Bulldogs, Boston Terriers — needing surgery to improve their breathing.
Laser surgeries can be performed with local or regional anesthesia as opposed to completely putting an animal to sleep. The process is more comfortable for their patients, say those veterinarians using the tool. The doctors add that they like the precise cutting of the laser, which eliminates damage to surrounding tissue, ultimately resulting in less bleeding and inflammation. Lasers also cauterize the tissue during the procedure, which reduces bleeding.
Dr. Robert Billiar, a veterinarian with the South Sioux Animal Hospital with 54 years’ experience, has begun using therapeutic lasers with his canine patients. He most commonly uses them for treating arthritis and other joint ailments as well as for wound healing.
“Therapeutic lasers aren’t quite a pain management magic wand, but practitioners who are using them say they come close,” Dr. Billiar told The Sioux City Journal. “Used properly, these light-emitting diodes perform virtual miracles for patients dealing with chronic pain.”
This featured contribution was written by Linda Dailey Paulson, a health and medical writer for Sunray Laser, a medical equipment company that provides new and refurbished aesthetic laser systems. Linda has been covering science and technology for more than two decades.