There is a growing trend in veterinary medicine to incorporate alternative types of therapy with the traditional ways we treat a variety of conditions. As an example, many of the clients we see want to try something non-invasive for their furry friends before opting for surgery. Or perhaps surgery may not be an option due to extenuating circumstances. In other cases, one type of treatment alone may not be effective, so a variety of alternative methods may be combined together to deal with a health issue.
One of the new treatments gaining in popularity today is laser therapy. Once a thing found only in science-fiction movies and technology journals, lasers have actually been used in the medical world for many years. First used as a precision surgical cutting tool, they are now also used for other applications such as tattoo and hair removal. Today, as with most things utilized in human medicine, lasers have eventually worked their way into veterinary practice to treat a variety of disease processes in small animals.
Complement for traditional therapy
In recent years an increasing number of veterinarians have introduced laser therapy in their treatment plans for dogs, cats and other animals to manage painful and inflammatory conditions. Using terms such as “cold laser therapy,” “low-level laser therapy” or “class IV laser therapy,” lasers have become a welcome alternative and/or complement to the traditional ways used to treat many of these types of conditions.
dog-newspaperLaser therapy works by focusing the energy created by a laser to penetrate deeply into affected tissue without causing damage. This causes cellular reproduction and growth, resulting in quicker healing times and a decrease in inflammation — which also provides pain relief. Other benefits include improved vascular (blood flow) activity and increased nerve function. Laser therapy can also be used to painlessly stimulate trigger or acupuncture points.
Because one of the other benefits of laser therapy is to speed healing, it is being used with increasing frequency on areas of an animal’s body where surgery has been performed. Treating incisions and surgical sites with lasers can greatly reduce post-op swelling and incision pain. Dogs and cats undergoing surgical procedures — even tooth extractions — can benefit greatly from a single laser treatment before they even leave the operating room. Laser treatments are also being integrated into rehabilitation plans for many pets recovering from orthopedic and spinal surgery.
Seniors, arthritis and more
The use of a laser to decrease healing times is not limited to surgical or post-surgical cases, with the benefits of shorter healing time offering a significant benefit for pets dealing with acute conditions such as traumatic wounds or “hot spots.”
Other conditions that can be treated with laser therapy include arthritis, tendonitis, inflamed ears or intervertebral disk disease (commonly called “slipped disks”) in the back that can cause spine and nerve compression. In addition, cold laser therapy may also benefit cystitis and stomatitis. Cystitis is a painful inflammation and swelling of the urinary bladder which can sometimes lead to urinary obstruction, while stomatitis is a very uncomfortable, recurrent, inflammatory condition of the mouth affecting gums, tongue and palate, commonly seen in cats and is typically stubborn to treat.
dog-blanketAnother common use of laser therapy in small animal medicine is with senior dogs and cats. Older pets often suffer from conditions such as decreased mobility, stiffness, arthritis, disk problems and chronic pain.
By decreasing the pain, inflammation, and decreased mobility from these conditions, we can improve the quality of life for these cats and dogs. Most arthritis protocols include a variety of treatment aspects including diet, supplements, acupuncture and in many cases, medication. By integrating laser therapy into these protocols, we may actually be able to reduce the amounts of anti-inflammatory medication and pain killers we give to our four-legged friends. Laser therapy can also be safely used with all other treatment options.
Therapeutic laser treatments are painless, non-invasive and safe. No sedation or hair clipping is required. It’s also non-toxic with no known side effects. For the patients we treat it’s a relaxing comfortable experience similar to a good massage.
Being in pain is no fun for humans or our dogs or cats. The introduction and acceptance of lasers into common medical practice has represented a boon for those looking for relief. Of course, medicine is an inexact science, and as the expression goes, “your mileage may vary.” But the acceptance of laser therapy represents a true breakthrough in modern medicine and it can offer a genuine option for Fluffy or Fido.
A husband-and-wife veterinary team, Drs. Damian Battersby and Shelley Skopit own and operate Fairfield County’s Park Animal Hospital. The couple recently purchased the practice and its two locations in Norwalk and Darien. In addition to continuing to provide quality health care for dogs and cats, the couple has introduced healing arts services, which are offered by few veterinarians in the region. The couple resides in Wilton.