Laser Therapy? What is it & is it Okay for My Dog?

When we were growing up, lasers were for Star Wars, Star Trek, Superhero eyes, light shows, and advanced military weapons. My, how science has changed since our childhoods. Mr. Spock, Luke Skywalker, & Cyclops from the X-Men would be amazed with the progress in laser technology, especially the medical applications for animals.

Actually, laser therapy has been around longer than a lot of us have been hanging around on the earth. Developed as a medical treatment throughout the 1950’s &  early 1960’s, the first laser was used in as a medical tool in 1961 to destroy a retinal tumor. By 1964 laser surgeries were becoming more common for humans. 1988 showed another huge leap forward in laser technology when the last first LASIK surgery was performed at Louisiana State University. Although there are over 40 years of human treatments with lasers on the books, the laser therapy market has only recently made its way into the world of veterinary medicine.

In the world of animals, dogs are the most likely to receive laser therapy. Treatments for pain, inflammation, burns, superficial skin lesions and edema (swelling caused by excess fluids in body tissues) are the most impacted and improved with the use of laser therapy for pets.

The healing power of lasers provide the following benefits;

  • Restores tissue

  • Speeds the formation of scar tissue

  • Reduces existing pain and inflammation

  • Improved blood circulation

  • Accelerates the bodies healing processes

  • Repairs superficial skin lesions by regenerating affected tissue

  • In many cases can have an analgesic role by assisting in pain relief without the use of harsh medications

  • Helps relieve the swelling and inflammation of edema

Laser therapy is especially helpful in the treatment of arthritis, osteoarthritis, muscle & joint pain, pain from nerve damage & severe pain along the path of a nerve), tendinitis, and other musculoskeletal conditions. It can also assist with ear & anal infections, plus it can help to relieve postoperative pain.

But WHY Laser Therapy Instead of Other Treatments?

  • As a non-invasive method of treatment, lasers heal tissue damage instead of causing it

  • The individual treatment times are relatively short compared to other healing methods, relieving stress and worry from the animal

  • It’s drug free, non-toxic, and easy to apply

  • There are no reported adverse reactions or issues with the procedure

  • It can be used on most breeds and there are no age restrictions

What’s the Treatment like from an Animals point of view?

Your pet will likely not feel anything. The veterinarian, or vet tech, will simply hold a hand sized wand over the painful or inflamed area of the animal. Depending on the wound or condition, treatments last from 3 to 10 minutes in most cases. In situations where large areas are impacted, or a deeper tissue laser is required for treatment, the process could last for up to 30 minutes. More chronic, serious or widespread issues may require multiple sessions.

Most pets enjoy the attention of multiple humans, the relaxing environment, and the pain relief. Some dogs have been known to doze off during the process. It is rare for an animal to require any sedation during a laser therapy treatment, but in some cases it may be required. There could be a warm sensation in the area receiving treatment, but most animals enjoy that feeling and it relaxes them.

Laser therapy is not costly for each treatment (national estimates run from $40 to $100 for a single session. This varies by length of session and the issue being treated. See your veterinarian for a cost estimate).  However, if your pet requires multiple sessions for their condition, you can see where the cost can become rather high.

Let’s Get Technical

Laser therapy helps to relieve pain through something called photobiomodulation. This is the name of the photochemical process that occurs when light interacts with cells to cause a biochemical reaction. These reactions increase circulation at the cellular level, thus stimulating the immune system, causing a reduction in inflammation and enhancing the bodies natural production of collagen and promotes the development of muscle tissue. All these things help to repair damaged tissue.

As you can imagine, there are multiple classes of lasers for various applications. They vary by the power output of the laser, with Class 1 being the lowest in strength and going all the way up to a Class IV for surgical and military lasers. Veterinary medicine uses a Class IIIA laser, and sometimes II. Any usage of a laser higher than Class II requires everyone involved to wear eye protection. This help to assure there is no chance of retinal burns.

So What are the Drawbacks to Laser Therapy?

Other than the cost of treatment becoming excessive to some peoples budget over multiple, lengthy sessions, and the treatment options being limited to a small segment of the overall pet health problems, there are very few. Some animals will be uncomfortable with the goggles, or being limited in mobility during the treatment, or may not like strange hands touching them. The equipment may look scary to some pets, and the “heat up” that occurs during some treatments might be off putting. Animals with older lesions or scar tissue may feel some discomfort or pain AFTER the process has ended.

Not every veterinarian has the equipment for laser therapy, but it is becoming more common in the field. Although simple to operate, there is a requirement that a veterinarian and/or Vet Tech have training before using the laser therapy equipment. Normally this is accomplished in as few as one session. Each state has regulations, rules, and qualifications on what lasers can be used, who can use them, and the required training.

Lasers have been found to be an effective, easy to use, non-intrusive, non-surgical, and drug free way to provide relief for your pets in many different medical situations. To find out if your fur buddy can benefit from laser therapy, talk to your everyday wellness veterinarian for their opinion.

That’s this week’s scoop from Freddie Central. It’s amazing to see the various advancements in veterinary medicine and the growing focus on animals in our country. What’s next… dogs in space? Well, maybe we’re 70 years, or so, too late for that accomplishment but taking your pet for a walk on the moon can’t be that far away… right?

If you enjoyed this weeks Dog Blog, remember that we have a large archive of #FreddieSez posting from the past year. You can find these are the link below and we’d love you to filter through our many short reads to find topics that interest you.


We hope to see you back next Thursday for another interesting, often humorous, and always informative Blog from the Jack Kerouac of Canines. We promise that you’ll find out exactly what Freddie thinks, Freddie believes, and it’s all neatly tucked into what #FreddieSez.  Till then, we hope you are happy, health, safe, sound, and beyond all else, Pet Friendly! Have a great week.