Therapeutic lasers can treat numerous conditions in pets by stimulating healing and decreasing pain and inflammation. Our team at Groves Veterinary Clinic wants to provide details about this versatile treatment modality, to help you decide if your pet can benefit.
Laser therapy for pets—the basics
The term laser stands for light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation, and refers to a device that emits radiation as a flow of light energy photons. This light flow is monochromatic (i.e., one wavelength), coherent (i.e., all photons travel in the same phase and direction), and collimated (i.e., minimal laser beam divergence over a distance). These three properties allow the therapy laser beam to be focused on one body location, penetrate the skin without causing damage, and interact safely with tissues. This interaction occurs through photobiomodulation, a photochemical process in which target cells and photons from a laser source interact, to cause biochemical pathway stimulation or inhibition. Photons absorbed through these biochemical pathways allow adenosine triphosphate (ATP) production, which plays a significant role in the laser’s therapeutic effects.
- Pain modulation — ATP functions as a neurotransmitter, functioning across nerve synapses to alleviate pain.
- Tissue repair — ATP enhances cellular metabolism, to accelerate cell growth and tissue repair.
- Anti-inflammatory effects — ATP decreases prostaglandin E2 and cyclooxygenase-2, decreasing inflammation.
- Stem cell stimulation — ATP acts as a cell-signaling molecule, to stimulate stem cells.
Laser therapy for pets—the lasers used
Lasers are classified based on their wavelength and potential energy output. Four classes are currently recognized.
- Class 1 — These include lasers used in everyday life, such as bar code scanners, which are extremely mild and safe.
- Class 2 — These lasers are in the visible light spectrum, ranging from 400 to 700 nm, and include laser pointers and some therapeutic lasers. These lasers can damage the retina, if directed at the eye for prolonged periods.
- Class 3 — These most commonly used therapeutic lasers include continuous and pulsed lasers in the visible to infrared spectrum.
- Class 4 — These are the strongest lasers, and are mostly used in surgical procedures. They can permanently damage the eyes or burn the skin, if used inappropriately.
Laser therapy for pets—the benefits
Laser therapy can relieve chronic and acute pain by influencing peripheral nerve function and nerve conduction abilities. Tissue repair is promoted by the increased local circulation, reduced inflammation, and immune system stimulation. Collagen and muscle tissue development is also enhanced, which speeds healing. Laser therapy’s specific beneficial effects include:
- Neovascularization — Stimulation of the natural formation of new blood vessels
- Angiogenesis — Stimulation of new blood vessel formation from pre-existing blood vessels
- Collagen synthesis — Destruction of damaged collagen structures, and initiation of the body’s repair process, to produce new collagen cells, which enhance wound healing
- Nerve healing stimulation — Stimulation of nerve growth factors, which help nerves regenerate and heal
- Tendon, cartilage, and bone healing — Increase in cell proliferation, accelerating tendon, cartilage, and bone healing
- Reduced swelling — Stimulation at the cellular level of the body’s cells, to reduce swelling
- Mitigation of brain and spinal cord damage — A neuroprotective effect that promotes healing after brain and spinal cord injury
Laser therapy for pets—the conditions treated
Laser therapy can be beneficial when treating numerous acute and chronic conditions, including:
- Arthritis — Studies have shown that laser therapy can increase circulation in tissues around the joint, reduce pain, and increase quality of life.
- Tendon and ligament injuries — Laser therapy can improve collagen fiber organization, enhancing tendon and ligament healing in conditions such as cranial cruciate ligament tears.
- Fractures — Laser therapy promotes callus development in the healing process early stages, speeding fracture healing.
- Traumatic wounds — Laser therapy increases cell proliferation, decreases inflammation, and promotes a more organized healing process, resulting in faster wound healing.
- Post operative wounds — Post surgical wounds treated with laser therapy heal faster, are less painful, and have a lower infection rate.
- Infections — Faster healing prevents bacterial infection in wounds, and laser therapy can affect bacterial growth in infected wounds, leading to quicker healing times.
- Dental procedures — Laser therapy can help reduce pain and accelerate healing during dental procedures, such as tooth extractions.
- Inflammatory bowel disease — Laser therapy decreases the intestinal lining inflammation, allowing the tissue to heal faster, and causing less discomfort and diarrhea.
- Lick granulomas — Lick granulomas are notoriously difficult to heal, but laser therapy can help speed the healing process.
Laser therapy for pets—the administration
The main safety precaution required during laser therapy is eye protection. Your pet, and every person in the room, must wear protective glasses or goggles, to prevent retinal damage. Once your pet’s goggles are in place, the treatment area may be clipped to maximize the laser’s effect. Then, a wand-like laser device is slowly moved back and forth over the affected region. Laser therapy sessions usually take about 15 to 30 minutes, with the treatment number and frequency depending on your pet’s injury. Weekly treatments may be needed for chronic conditions, while surgical incisions and open wounds may need daily treatments.
Laser therapy is a versatile and effective treatment that can help pets suffering from numerous conditions. If you would like to see whether laser therapy could help your pet, contact our Groves Veterinary Clinic team to schedule an appointment.