Dog laser therapy is a proven treatment to alleviate the pain of chronic medical conditions or to help your dog heal following a surgical procedure. This non-invasive, almost spa-like experience helps to improve their quality of life and can even lead to fewer anti-inflammatory or pain medications. If your dog is a candidate for laser therapy, you likely searched online to learn more about the benefits and process. At Urban Veterinary Associates, we work hard to provide factual information you can trust so that you can make the most informed decisions for your dog. To avoid online misinformation that can lead you down the wrong road, we’ve taken FAQs about dog laser therapy and answered them as thoroughly as possible.

If you’re looking for a highly trained veterinarian in Westmont, IL, we’d love to see your dog for laser therapy to help them become more comfortable, so please call us at (630) 541-8088.

How is laser therapy used to treat dogs?

We use laser therapy to treat many different conditions in dogs, and it involves shining a very focused light on the area where they’ve had pain or an injury. The engines inside the cells in those areas and mitochondria absorb the light and produce energy. The result is the cells in that tissue become more active and start functioning better to heal the area. Laser therapy is non-invasive and helps to accelerate the body's natural healing process.

Why should I consider laser therapy for my dog?

For dogs in a lot of pain, that can, unfortunately, mean they’re on a lot of medications for this. If your dog isn't getting better, they're going to need even more medication. For example, an older dog with hip dysplasia and arthritis will be on anti-inflammatory and pain medications. This is not an ideal scenario for your dog at a time and age where their organ function is declining. Laser therapy can improve their quality of life by decreasing the pain and reducing the number of medications they’re taking, giving organs like the kidneys and liver a chance to recoup.

What are the different laser therapies, and when might the veterinarian recommend them for my dog?

There is only one major modality for therapeutic lasers: a low-level, frequency-specific laser. That means it's not a laser that will burn or cut the tissue. Frequency-specific means we’re targeting specific cells in the area of injury. For instance, if a dog has an ACL tear or an anterior cruciate ligament tear in their knee, which is unfortunately quite common, we're targeting those ligament cells and the connective tissue cells. We're also targeting the muscle cells, joint cells, and inflammatory cells and getting them to work together. Some lasers might be too high-powered, and while those can decrease inflammation and minimize pain, low-level lasers change tissue to make it heal. We’re not just taking away the pain, inflammation, and medication but also changing the tissues for the better.

What conditions can laser therapy be used to treat my dog?

We can treat several conditions with laser therapy, most of which can result in reduced medications or eliminating medications.

Dog conditions that can we can treat with laser therapy include:

  • Anterior cruciate ligament tears
  • Arthritis or joint inflammation
  • Bladder infections
  • Chronic cystitis
  • Dermatology, such as skin allergies
  • Disc injuries, such as a blown disc or bad back pain
  • Neck issues, especially in brachycephalic dogs like Pugs and French Bulldogs
  • Chronic ear inflammation
  • Acute injuries, such as a fracture
  • Post-op pain
  • Incision healing following a spay or neuter

What can I expect from my dog's laser therapy appointment?

Depending on your veterinarian and their facility protocols, you should be able to stay with your dog and witness how relaxed and happy they are during the treatment. It's always a rewarding veterinary visit versus one for cutting nails or receiving vaccines. Dogs enjoy laser therapy — much more than anything else we do at Urban Veterinary Associates. They receive a lot of attention, love, and cuddles while lying on a comfortable orthopedic bed. Your veterinarian will touch the edge of the glass ball with the laser to your pet and move it around in a circular motion. The light in the wand penetrates through their skin and hair coat, giving your dog a nice little massage.

How long will a laser therapy session last for my dog?

We’ll typically use three to four different sets of frequency during a laser therapy appointment, and each takes approximately three minutes. Therefore, a laser therapy session lasts anywhere from 15-20 minutes. The length of time is also dependent on what we are lasering. Arthritis sessions tend to take longer, spending an average of five minutes on each joint. Lasering for wound healing or wound management tends to be a little quicker, lasting only 1-3 minutes.

How many laser therapy sessions will my dog need?

The number of laser therapy sessions needed is contingent on the problem. If it's an acute problem, treatment is usually complete after 5-7 treatments. If it's a more chronic problem, such as an ACL or back issue, it might take 14-15 laser treatments. For a serious acute condition, such as an ACL, dogs will usually have two treatments 90 minutes apart for the first three days, followed by daily treatments for another three days. The following week, they receive three treatments, followed by two treatments the next week. After that, they receive the rest of the treatments and veterinary orthopedic manipulation. Veterinary orthopedic manipulation and laser therapy do exceptionally well together, making each other more effective. With more serious, painful conditions, we frequently use these together.

What are the risks of laser therapy?

There are no risks associated with laser therapy. A veterinarian doesn’t even need to wear goggles — that's how safe it is. Dog owners commonly question a connection to cancer, whether it’s a concern that laser therapy can cause it or will feed existing cancer. There is no risk factor associated with cancer, but what laser therapy will do is make your dog more comfortable if they have cancer. They're going to be in less pain and need fewer medications, and you’re improving the function of all the cells around the cancer. The only side effect of laser therapy is that your dog will have a stronger, happier body.

How will I know if laser therapy is working for my dog?

You’ll know if laser therapy is working for your dog because you’ll see the positive changes and progress. You're going to see that your dog is walking better, getting up and down from the couch easier, going up and down the stairs with ease, and acting happier — like grabbing their toy and bringing it to you, whereas before they were disinterested in playtime. All of those actions are indications that the laser therapy is working.

A few conditions might not respond to laser therapy, such as a knee injury with a clicking noise. That's an audible sound when the dog flexes its knee, and there's a click of the pad between the two bones in the knee called the meniscus. When that is ripped, it flaps in the joint and is painful. Unfortunately, laser therapy isn’t going to fix that or decrease the pain. Hypothyroid disease is another medical issue in dogs that makes both veterinary orthopedic manipulation and laser less effective. If your dog is overweight, has a scruffy hair coat, or has many chronic illnesses or infections, they might have thyroid disease. Your veterinarian will want to test for it before starting treatment because if they have hypothyroidism, laser therapy won't work as well.

The American Animal Hospital Association provides more information regarding dog laser therapy, including the benefits and how it affects your dog’s tissues. If you have further questions about dog laser therapy, reach out to your veterinarian. If you live in or near Westmont, IL, we’d love to see your dog to treat any chronic or post-surgical pain, so please don’t hesitate to call us at (630) 541-8088 or email us at [email protected].