Downeast Dog News

Laser Therapy

By Dr. Judith Herman | Apr 01, 2018

Laser Therapy

Q. I do agility with my dog. Lately, I have been hearing a lot about laser therapy from my agility friends. What is it, is it safe, and would it be something I should do with my dog?

A. Laser therapy has been around for a long time. Because of the advancement of technology and research over the last few decades, cold laser therapy, also known as photobiomodulation therapy, has become more available.

Let’s start with, “What is laser?” There are cold laser and hot laser. Hot laser is used in surgery. Cold laser is a lower level of energy that is directed to damaged or painful tissue. Research has shown that laser energy causes a reaction at the cellular level stimulating healing.

The deeper the injury, the more energy needed to reach that area. Lasers are rated from class 1 up to 4. Class 1 is what you use to play with your cat or dog or used in a power point presentation. Class 2 is used in bar code readers at the grocery store. Class 3 and 4 are used for therapeutic treatment in people and animals.

In veterinary medicine, the lasers used are either a Class 3B or 4. These lasers are strong enough to penetrate deep into joints, spines, and in some cases, organs in the abdomen, such as urinary bladders. These lasers are so strong, the technician, guardian, and the dog all wear special goggles to protect their eyes.

Lasers have been used to treat ear infections, skin wounds, cruciate ligament injuries, disc disease, osteoarthritis, skin disease, gum disease, speed up healing from surgery, lick granulomas, and more. The veterinarians and technicians that perform laser therapy on your dog have completed many hours of study for optimum results in treatment.

Before starting laser therapy, your dog needs to have an in-depth history, thorough exam, and appropriate diagnostics. Once the area of interest is found and a diagnosis has been made, your veterinarian will discuss with you all your treatment options. In conjunction with other treatments, laser therapy may be recommended.

Each time your dog has a laser treatment, he is evaluated before and after to assess improvement. If the appropriate amount of laser has been used and in the correct areas, there should be some noticeable improvement. In most cases, a series of treatments are indicated.

When your dog has a dental, laser is applied afterward to speed healing of his gums. After surgery, laser is applied to the incision to speed incisional healing. If your dog slipped on the ice and injured his elbow, daily laser may be indicated. When dealing with osteoarthritis, laser therapy initially may be daily or every other day. Then treatments are spread out until a maintenance of once a month has been reached. Laser therapy may be part of a physical therapy plan to maintain healthy muscles and joints.

Laser is very safe, but some precautions are necessary. If a class 4 laser is being used, the technician will be following the laser with her finger to make sure the area does not overheat. When using a class 3B or 4 laser, appropriate goggles are worn to protect everyone including the dog’s retinas. Laser can reflect off tables, jewelry, watches, and anything shiny. When laser is being used, windows are covered and doors are closed. There should be signs saying laser is in use. These practices will protect anyone walking into the room when the laser is on. Any class laser should never be shined into the eyes.

In my practice, we use our laser every day. I recently used it on my dog’s ears for inflammation. He healed in half the time. When indicated, the laser is a great tool to speed healing and to remove pain.


Judith K. Herman DVM, CVH

Animal Wellness Center

Augusta, Maine