A happy dog relaxing, laying on a stone patio, tongue out.

Cold laser therapy for pets

Team Walmart Pets

June 17, 2021

4

min read

You may associate lasers with evil sci-fi villains, but in the world of veterinary medicine, laser therapy is one of the most popular ways to treat pets suffering from a wide-variety of issues. And laser therapy goes by many names (therapeutic laser, cold laser, low-level laser, Class IV laser), but laser therapy has one goal, and that is to make your pet feel better.

How cold laser therapy works

What does laser mean?

Fun fact—the word laser is actually an acronym. It stands for Light Amplification by the Stimulated Emission of Radiation. OK, that doesn’t mean much. So here it is, put another way: a laser is a device that’s capable of converting light or electrical energy into a focused, high energy beam.

What is cold laser therapy?

In the case of cold laser therapy, the specific wavelength of light can penetrate tissue to help treat injuries that would otherwise require an incision. This is much different from a laser that might be used in surgery, which would have the photothermal effect of cutting. Instead, a cold laser has a photochemical effect in the tissues, which results in:

  • Reduced inflammation: Blood and lymph vessels are dilated, increasing blood circulation and decreasing swelling. Laser therapy also suppresses the production of fatty acid compounds that worsen inflammation.
  • Pain relief: Nerve sensitivity is decreased and the production of pain relieving endorphins is increased.
  • Accelerated healing: Light photons penetrate into targeted tissue to speed cellular reproduction and growth.
  • Decreased production of fibrous tissue (which means less scarring).
  • Increased nerve function: Laser therapy speeds up nerve regeneration and aids nerve cell reconnection.

These benefits make laser therapy ideal for the treatment of both acute injuries as well as chronic conditions.

Laser therapy for pain

A classic use of laser therapy is in pets who suffer from osteoarthritis pain. Multimodal treatment of arthritis pain is always recommended, and laser therapy is a perfect fit for an arthritic pet’s treatment plan.

For skin conditions

Skin conditions are also commonly treated with laser therapy, especially those that are persistent or may have difficulty healing on their own. Laser therapy can be helpful with skin conditions such as:

  • Lick granulomas
  • Burns
  • Hot spots
  • Ear infections
  • Surgical incisions

The list of conditions to which laser therapy can be applied is almost endless, and new applications are discovered often. Thinking outside the box is helpful here—almost any condition that will benefit from decreased inflammation can benefit, from chronic cystitis or stomatitis in cats to intervertebral disk disease and fractured bones in dogs.

What is cold laser therapy not good for?

While laser therapy sounds like (and often is) a magic bullet, there are a few conditions where the use of laser therapy is not the recommended treatment. These include:

  • Use on the eyes, testicles or growth plates
  • Use directly over a cancerous lesion
  • Use in a pregnant animal
  • Areas of active bleeding
  • Patients on medications that make them sensitive to sunlight

Laser therapy for dogs and cats

If your pet is a candidate for laser therapy, treatment will take several appointments. Just as chronic conditions take time to develop, they will need time to heal. Pets generally start with laser therapy twice a week, with each session lasting 15 to 20 minutes. 

Is laser therapy painful for dogs?

The procedure is painless, though you and your pet will likely have to wear safety glasses (cool accessory alert) as a precaution to avoid inadvertent exposure to your eyes.

If your pet has a chronic (or acute) injury or condition, check with your veterinarian to see if she offers laser therapy or can refer you to someone who does.

From laser therapy to hydrotherapy...

As a pet parent, of course you hope that your dog or cat lives a long, healthy life with little to no complications. But the truth is, there’s no way to guarantee your pet will stay out of trouble. The best thing you can do to try and be ready for anything life throws at you and your pet is to enroll with Walmart Pet Insurance. It pays you back up to 90% of vet bills when your pet gets sick or hurt, and covers the related treatment.

Pet Health

Photo by James Ting on Unsplash