Cold Laser Therapy for Pets- Beam me up Scotty?
No, not that kind of laser! This is a practical down-to-earth device and while it won’t move us to another galaxy, it will move pain, whether it is our pain or the pain experienced by our companion animals.
I wish I had known about Low Level light/Laser Therapy (also known as ‘Cold Laser’) eleven years ago when the love of my life, Java, a Rottie Husky cross had to undergo a major surgery. His recovery from the surgery was extremely difficult and I am certain Cold Laser would have made him more comfortable and sped up his recovery time. If Java were alive today, he would benefit from having Cold Laser therapy for stiff joints and arthritis, nerve pain and general improvement in the quality of his life as a senior dog.
What is Cold Laser therapy?
Cold Laser or Low Level light/Laser therapy (LLLT) is the application of light (a low-power laser or light-emitting diode [LED]) to promote tissue repair, reduce inflammation, or reduce pain (analgesia). Unlike high-powered lasers, which create heat and destroy tissue (and are often used in surgery for making incisions), Low Level light/Laser therapy actually stimulates the healing of tissues at the very foundation of the cell level.
How does this work?
Remember mitochondria from high-school biology class? They are the power-house of the cell that produces energy known as ATP (adenosine tri-phosphate) and each cell in our body has these little powerhouses. Normally these mitochondria can produce enough energy to allow the cell (and its surrounding tissues and organs) to heal itself when injured and to reduce inflammation. However, stress affects everything in the body, including our mitochondria. In tissues that are stressed, the mitochondria can’t function at full capacity and produces less cellular energy than that which is needed for repair. This reduction in cell energy results in an environment where tissues and organs can’t function properly, and creates a buildup of inflammatory byproducts causing pain and swelling in the damaged area. The LLLT device works by emitting particles of light, known as photons, which are absorbed by the cell’s mitochondria at the actual site of injury. The mitochondria use these photons to produce more ATP energy, which is exactly what is needed for tissue repair and reducing inflammation and pain at the site of injury.
What can be treated?
Low level Light Laser Therapy (LLLT) can be used to treat a wide variety of conditions, both chronic (long standing) and acute (recent) diseases. Chronic inflammatory conditions such as; pancreatitis, tendonitis, torn ligaments (knees), muscle sprains & strains, nerve injuries, cellulitis, arthritis, hip dysplasia, and joint pain can all benefit from Low level Light Laser Therapy. Even chronic infected ears, which are extremely painful, show reduction in pain and swelling with Low Level light/Laser therapy treatment. Post-surgical incisions and wounds heal faster with the aid of LLLT.
In clinical trials, LLLT has been found to improve blood circulation in injured tissue as well as stimulate the formation of new blood vessels. This is important because blood is the life source of all healing and better blood circulation means the body’s important healing products and nutrients can reach the site of injury.
LLLT has been shown to help repair all kinds of tissue from muscle, skin, bone, cartilage and nerves to organs (including the liver). Skin conditions such as dermatitis, burns, hot spots and lick granulomas have benefited from Low Level light Laser Therapy and research supports the benefits of LLLT for nerve injures, as it helps to regenerate both the nerve itself and the insulating nerve cover (known as the myelin sheath).
LLLT stimulates bone healing through the increased production of new bone cells (known as osteoblasts). LLLT accelerates healing in injuries of skin, muscle, nerve and bone, and reduces edema, inflammation & scar tissue.
Are there any contraindications to using laser therapy?
LLLT should not be used directly over any cancerous tumours, or over a pregnant female’s uterus. It can be used safely over metal implants such as pins.
How long is an average treatment?
Treatment times range from 2-30 minutes depending on the condition being treated. Larger animals may require more time so that the LLLT can be directed over the entire injured area. Most animals find LLLT to be a relaxing treatment once they become familiar with the procedure, some will even fall asleep during treatment.
How many treatments are needed?
The number of treatments needed depends on the condition being treated. Recent (acute) conditions may only require 1-5 treatments, while more chronic long-standing conditions may require 10-15 treatments or more. Older animals can benefit from an ongoing maintenance treatment on a weekly or monthly basis. Because LLLT works so well for joint pain, it can be used as a maintenance program to reduce, delay or prevent joint degeneration in companion animals. LLLT treatment can replace or reduce the use of steroids and other anti-inflammatory drugs. Long-term use of steroids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory can have negative side effects on the health of our companion animals.
Health care for animals has come a long way in the last decade and more options exist than ever to help us provide more gentle, effective and non-invasive medical care for our animal friends.
About the author: Dr. Rehanni Khaseipoul practices Holistic medicine at Vital Beings Veterinary Practice in Port Coquitlam BC.
References: Thor Laser, Bioflex Laser