Laser Therapy for Dogs

Seeing my dog whimper in pain was heartbreaking. He had his first back spasm, which was caused by IVDD (intervertebral disc disease). After two trips to the ER on the same day, we had a cocktail of 5 pain medications. It was 3 long days before the back spasm stopped.

Laser Therapy for Dogs

It was only 4 weeks later when my dog experienced his second back spasm. The pain and intensity of the spasm was much worse than before.  This time it took the pain meds and the addition of a muscle relaxer to stop the spasm.

My dog has experienced several back spasms within a few months.  He needs a plan to help reduce pain and prevent future spasms.  But what are our options?

Pain management can be complicated in a dog. Medications can only do so much. And seeing your dog suffer in pain can cause a lot of stress and anxiety. If you feel you’ve exhausted all options for pain management, then laser therapy may be an option for you.

What Is Laser Therapy?

Laser has been around since it’s invention in the 1960’s.  And while it isn’t common to use as treatment, it is a great option for many medical conditions.

Laser has been used to treat the following medical conditions in humans:

  • Hair loss
  • Neurological conditions (brain injury, stroke, spinal cord injuries, and degenerative central nervous system disease)
  • Degenerative brain disorders (Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease)
  • Wound healing (skin ulcers)
  • Pain
  • Joint disorders

Laser therapy isn’t widely used due to a lack of understanding in how it works. Different colors have different wavelengths that can penetrate the skin.  A deeper light penetration isn’t always better.  Most lasers used have a low to medium skin penetration (600 - 1070 nm) using a red laser to maximize healing.

Low level laser therapy (LLLT) is also known as cold laser therapy.  The lower intensity laser is safe and effective and doesn't emit high amounts of heat.

Hot laser carries a risk of burning your dog and inducing more pain. But they can be useful for ablation, cutting, and cauterizing tissue to stop bleeding.   So while hot lasers are useful, they are used for medical procedures.

Cold laser can be used for healing and prevention of medical issues.  They emit low levels of red and near infrared light without producing heat.  It helps to reduce inflammation, promote healing, and reduces pain.

To explain further, cold laser does the following:

  • Prevent tissue/cell death
  • Improve blood flow (which increases oxygen)
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Increase antioxidants

Options for Laser Therapy

Cold laser therapy is an alternative treatment available at most vet clinics.  A short 10-15 minute treatment could cost around $60 or more.  Usually several treatments are needed to help treat and prevent flare-ups of pain.  And due to the COVID pandemic, vet appointments are difficult due to limited staff.

Since a cold laser is easy to use, there are options for home use.  Medco Vet offers a small, portable, hand-held cold laser device.  This allows you to give your pet a laser treatment at home.  You can customize your care plan with your vet to determine how often laser treatments should be.  Flare-ups may need more laser treatments to help reduce pain.

Laser devices can be found online but there's no way to know if they are effective. A cheaper machine could mean that LED was used instead of laser.

LED emits light over a wider range of wavelengths and affects tissue penetration. Remember that deeper tissue penetration isn’t always better.  It is unknown if efficacy is different between laser and LED, and more research is needed.

Syre demonstrates cold laser therapy.

Our Experience

We have the Medco Vet laser machine, which is available for sale or monthly rentals.

I love the convenience of being able to treat my dog at home.  I can personalize his therapy based on how he is feeling.  If he’s having a bad week, we increase his treatments to daily use and have longer sessions.

Since my dogs can’t tell me how they feel, their actions confirm that the laser is helping.  The minute I get out the laser machine, the dogs run over and lay down waiting for their turn.

For our laser routine, we aim for 5-10 minute sessions 3X weekly.  And if my dog is experiencing a back spasm, our laser sessions are nightly for an hour treatment.

But there is no wrong or right way of treating with cold laser.  Since laser is safe and effective, you can develop a treatment plan that works for you.

So would I recommend cold laser therapy?  Absolutely!  Laser therapy is a great addition to your dog's therapy.  Reduce pain and shorten recovery times with the click of a button.