By Dr. Elizabeth Knabe, DVM
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC
Some people may be seeing ads for laser therapy as a pain-relieving tool in human medicine. They may wonder how it works and what is it doing to relieve pain. Testimonials by actual patients attest to its effectiveness. What pet owners may not know is that laser therapy can help animals also.
Just like plants that absorb sunlight and use its energy to fuel their processes for growth and repair, cells inside of animals can absorb specific red and near-infrared wavelengths of laser light. These beams of light do certain, therapeutic things inside the body. In a nutshell, they reduce excessive inflammation, speed up healing from injuries, and reduce pain.
Therapy lasers have been used on people in Europe since the 1970s, and the FDA cleared them for use in the United States in 2002. There are some safety precautions to use such as wearing special goggles to protect the eyes from a direct beam. The people giving the treatments wear goggles, and if the pet might be able to look at the beam, it can also wear special pet goggles or simply have a dark cloth over its eyes.
Laser therapy is not painful, and there is just a feeling of warmth during treatments. Just a single treatment can be beneficial, but the best outcomes usually involve a series of treatments. The effects are better if they can accumulate over time. For chronic conditions of pain, such as with arthritis, ongoing periodic treatments may be needed.
Though animals cannot provide verbal testimonials, they do show through their actions and improvements in mobility that they do benefit from this therapy. More pet owners may seek out this drug-free approach to pain control and improved healing.