By Dr. Donald Consla, Lead Wellness Veterinarian
Laser therapy, also known as “class IV laser” or “cold laser,” is an anti-inflammatory treatment that our Animal Wellness Center can offer pets for pain management. The medical term is photobiomodulation, which means “light energy that modifies the body’s response.” Laser therapy is a tool that has been present in human medicine, particularly physical therapy, for decades and it has gained traction through its efficacy in the veterinary world over the past ten years.
So how does it work? The laser probe emits light energy, or photons, at a certain frequency and intensity. This light energy stimulates the cells of the body and increases their metabolism and blood flow to the treated area, reducing inflammation faster and overall pain faster.
We have established that laser therapy can be used for any condition that is causing pain due to inflammation. Traditionally, we use this treatment for patients with arthritis or sore backs, but since it is so versatile, we’re finding it helpful for many other conditions as well. It can be used for skin and ear infections, on surgical incisions, bladder infections and it has even been used on some patients with pancreatitis which causes inflammation in the pancreas.
Because laser therapy is not a medication, we don’t have to worry about many of the side effects we think of with traditional pain medications like gastrointestinal upset, irritation of the liver or kidneys and sedation. Some patients may experience some irritation at the treatment site, like a sunburn, but this is quite rare.
The treatment usually lasts less than five minutes, during which the patient lays on a blanket or padded mat and wears goggles to protect their eyes. The sensation is like that of a warming massage and most patients enjoy their treatments. We will often start laser therapy treatments every other day for the first couple of weeks and then decrease the frequency depending on the condition.
It is important to note that this treatment is not suitable for every patient, particularly those with a suspected growth or tumor. Since the treatment increases cellular metabolism, we don’t want to increase the metabolism of any tumor cells.
The next time your pet is dealing with a minor infection or other painful condition, be sure to talk to your veterinarian about laser therapy options for pain management.