What is Laser Therapy?

Therapy lasers became widely available approximately 8 years ago and were originally marketed mainly for the treatment of arthritis in dogs. They should not be confused with surgical lasers, which use more focused and generally higher power to cut tissue by vaporizing through cell layers. Therapy lasers are usually bi- or multi-modal (use different wavelengths of light), are lower powered, diffuse and have much deeper tissue penetration.

While the effectiveness of laser therapy has been very well established, there is still considerable debate as to how it works. The leading theory involves a complex process called photobiomodulation. The basic tenet is that the energy delivered by the laser causes a complex series of cellular reactions whose end result is to reduce inflammation and promote tissue healing and regeneration. It has also been suggested that the laser photoactivates stem cells present in damaged, inflamed or diseased tissue thereby promoting tissue healing and regeneration.

Neither theory yet been positively demonstrated and it may be that both end up being true. Regardless of the details, the bottom line is that laser therapy has been shown to be highly and often dramatically effective for a wide variety of diseases and injuries. Therapy lasers are the hot topic in veterinary medicine right now and are becoming common place in small animal medicine.

101 Uses

Laser therapy has a broad range of applications and we’re constantly developing new treatment protocols. In the 8 years since we’ve brought laser therapy into the practise the technology has matured considerably. We use our therapy laser to treat 5 to 10 patients per day for everything from ear infections to arthritis. Here are some of the applications for small animal medicine:

Orthopedics

Orthopedic injury and disease is currently the most common use for laser treatment, for which it has delivered outstanding results. As the pet population in the practice ages, it is extremely helpful to be able to offer another treatment option for chronic degenerative joint and inflammatory diseases.

In companion animals, where diseases such as hip dysplasia, cruciate ligament injuries, elbow dysplasia and old traumatic injuries are extremely common and often devastating, the advent of therapy lasers has been a Godsend. We have seen significant and often dramatic results in these cases and this has now become a major component of our treatment plan. In many cases, patients were able to stop taking NSAIDs following laser therapy. This has benefited not only our patients by reducing the incidence of adverse drug reactions but has significantly decreased the cost of treatment for our clients.

Soft Tissue Trauma and Disease

This is arguably the most useful application of laser therapy in companion animal medicine.  Ligament and tendon injuries tend to be very frustrating and difficult to treat because of the need for often lengthy exercise restriction (usually several months) and the high rate of re-injury. Laser therapy often shortens recovery times to weeks instead of months.

Therapy laser has been highly effective for treating diseases such as chronic ear infections, major wounds that have to be treated open, certain skin infections, urinary problems, back pain and a host of other injuries and diseases.

 

Other Applications

Almost any inflammatory disease can potentially be treated with laser therapy. As severe complicated wounds such as degloving injuries are likely to be treated open, lasers excel at speeding recovery and preventing infection. Laser therapy reduces healing time by half to two-thirds for open wounds and is helpful for treating or preventing infection. For large defects where skin grafts are being contemplated, laser treatment is very helpful for preparing the site for grafting. In many cases, laser therapy may abrogate the need for skin grafts altogether.

Treatment Details

Most treatment regimes involve a course of 6 treatments over a 3 week period.  A treatment takes between 2 and 10 minutes, is non-painful and is well tolerated by our patients. When used appropriately there are no known significant side-effects. Laser therapy is extremely affordable and is often less expensive than conventional therapy.

If you would like more information regarding laser therapy and how it can benefit your pet, please contact the hospital by phone at (705)869-0090 or by email at info@espanolavet.ca