Laser Therapy for Senior Dogs by Brian A. Pryor, Ph.D.

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This post contains excerpts from the article "Laser Therapy" by Brian A. Pryor, Ph.D, President and CEO of LiteCure Lasers. The entire article can be read in Jennifer Kachnic's Your Dog's Golden Years – Manual for Senior Dog Care.

You are going to LASER my dog?” Yes.

Today, lasers are being used by many veterinarians in the treatment of your four-legged companion. We are accustomed to hearing of lasers being used in applications as diverse as telecommunications to manufacturing computer circuit boards. Lasers are also used to treat pain and inflammation in world class athletes, race horses and yes, household pets. They have been used for advanced medical applications for over 35 years.

A relatively new application is the use of lasers for the relief of pain, the reduction of swelling and the healing of wounds. This is a unique use of laser light, due to the noninvasive nature of the treatment. Many laser applications use the intense energy which a laser can deliver to ablate or cut biological tissue. Therapeutic lasers, in contrast, work without any damage to tissue; the treatments are painless and quite enjoyable. Simply pass the laser over the body part and the pain goes away and the healing starts. Almost sounds too good to be true. Laser therapy is now being used by top doctors around the world.

Today’s veterinarian has access to this advanced laser technology, which can make a big difference in the care of older canines. Aging dogs are prone to arthritis, stiffness and other painful conditions just like we are as we age. Pain medications and anti-inflammatory drugs can have some very serious side effects on dogs, and long-term use of these medications is not ideal. Laser therapy is a safe, drug-free alternative to treat many common conditions, including arthritis.

What Will Happen When Your Dog Gets Treated?

Treatments are often performed by the veterinary technician. Treatments may be done on an examination table or as the dog is comfortably lying on the floor. Some practices even have a spa-like environment where your dog will lie on a sofa or plush bed. The treatment times will vary based on the size of the dog and the condition being treated.

Typical treatments will take five to ten minutes for an average-size dog. For a more superficial condition such as a post-surgical incision or a wound, the treatment times will be very short, one or two minutes. For a deeper condition like hip dysplasia or an arthritic condition, longer treatment times are needed. The weight and the body condition will also determine how long a treatment will take. Since the laser will need to penetrate more tissue on a larger dog, the laser will either need to be used at a higher power or a longer treatment time.

Some treatments will be done with the laser probe in contact with the skin. This will allow for excellent light penetration as well as a comforting or massage-like sensation for the dog. These treatments are also available for you, if you are feeling a little jealous (see your doctor). Your dog will feel a soothing warmth as part of the treatment. It is common for dogs to fall asleep during therapy.

Eye protection will be worn by the laser operator and anyone in close proximity to the laser probe. The eyes of the animal will be directed away from the treatment area or covered with a towel or eyewear. The clinician will move the probe over the area of treatment to assure the laser is being delivered to the area which needs improvement. It is common that multiple joints will be treated during one laser treatment session.

What Can You Expect After Your Dog Has Been Treated?

You may notice your dog a little more comfortable after just one session with considerable differences being seen after about three treatments. Typically, laser therapy will be scheduled every other day for the initial treatments of more chronic conditions. Most conditions will need, on average, six total treatments to get a healing response. For chronic conditions, eight to twelve treatments may be needed, with the possibility of ongoing maintenance treatments on a monthly basis.

Chronic conditions which have persisted for a long period of time can be challenging to treat, but hang in there. If progress is being seen, stick with the treatment recommended by your veterinarian as this new technology can make a significant difference in the health of your dog.

You can find the full article and many more great articles about senior dog care in Your Dog's Golden Years – Manual for Senior Dog Care by Jennifer Kachnic.

The information presented by The Grey Muzzle Organization is for informational purposes only. Readers are urged to consult with a licensed veterinarian for issues relating to their pet's health or well-being or prior to implementing any treatment.

The Grey Muzzle Organization improves the lives of at-risk senior dogs by providing funding and resources to animal shelters, rescue organizations, sanctuaries, and other nonprofit groups nationwide.

About the Contributor: Brian A. Pryor, Ph.D. is a founder and the Chief Executive Officer of LiteCure, LLC in Newark, DE. He has a Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry from the University of Pennsylvania. Over the past 10 years, he has studied how light and lasers interact with tissue, leading to the development of medical devices in the areas of aesthetics, diagnostics, and therapy. He has published a book entitled Clinical Overview and Applications of Class IV Therapy Lasers and frequently lectures about light uses in medical applications.