Diary of a Dog Undergoing Laser Treatment: Entry One

A partially torn ACL and a strained iliopsoas muscle. My dog has a leg injury and in an attempt to avoid a full tear and surgery, we’re undergoing laser treatment.

“Wow, doesn’t that hurt?” and “Does he sit still for it?” are both questions I’ve been asked along this journey. In order to take Fidose of Reality readers behind the scenes and give you an option with this non-surgical, non-sedative treatment modality, I’ll be blogging the process for the full six sessions.

Why It Happened

This photo says it all.

Dog ACL injury

My dog is a jumper and he lives, breathes, and sleeps the squeaky ball. Even if your dog isn’t a true athlete and is more the couch potato type of pooch, this can still happen. I remember learning about ligaments in biology classes when I returned to college as an adult. Without ligaments, you’ll become a BLB, a “blob”, my professor informed (and hence my mnemonic device). Ligaments connect bone to bone, so you can imagine how a partially torn one would cause pain, inflammation, lameness, limping, and can lead to a full tear. The folks at petMD have a great article about torn ligaments in dogs.

Dexter’s Diagnosis

After a fun play session at the park in early March, Dexter developed a lameness and bit of a hobble gait at night and after rising from a resting position. Despite rest (ha, tell that to a Cocker) and not allowing him to jump off furniture nor walk up or down stairs, a significant difference was not noticed. Off to the vet we went.

ACL tear dog laser therapy

Vet Visit

A vet visit was in order. After a thorough examination and a bit of manipulation, flexion and extension movements, etc, a tentative diagnosis was made: A partially torn ACL and a strained iliopsoas muscle. Further stress on the leg could lead to a full tear and could also cause the right unaffected leg to weaken due to extra compensation from shift of weight. This same anomaly affects people.

Treatment Plan

In order to help heal the leg and allow scar tissue to form, our vet  prescribed a protocol of rest, limited and supervised leash walks, and absolutely no running. We were also given homeopathic anti-inflammatories in the form of Traumeel and Heel tablets. I felt really good about this because I am not a fan of something like Rimadyl or the more invasive NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).

Next Steps

Dexter is an active boy, I am a dedicated dog mom, and I did not want him to become depressed due to inactivity. So we became creative with in-home games, gentle rolling of the ball in our hallway, and more frequent but shorter walks. He was not a happy camper. Certainly something else could accelerate this process, right?

Laser Treatment 

I did a lot of research and talked to a few friends and discovered cold laser therapy. Laser therapy is an FDA-cleared modality that reduces inflammation and that results in pain reduction. Laser therapy is effective in treating acute pain, chronic conditions, and post-operative pain. Dexter’s vet also offers this service, but I was hoping for a closer-to-home option.  Laser therapy!

Click This: What You Need to Know About Dog Cold Laser Therapy

First Visit

We found out about a great new facility in our area that offers full physical rehabilitation and fitness for animals. After a thorough examination and agreement on the diagnosis, a treatment plan was given: Six treatments of laser therapy lasting 15-20 minutes each along with range of motion exercises, intermittent treatment with ice and heat, and continue the rest/limited leash walks the vet recommended.

The dog is taken into a room where a doggie bed and inviting blanket await. The laser machine itself reminds me of those mobile blood pressure units at the doctor’s office. No drugs or sedation is required, and the only equipment your dog wears is a pair of protective laser-type dog glasses. All parties in the room need to wear them. This is the only gripe Dexter had with the entire process: He hates wearing glasses. So perhaps by the end of six sessions he will enjoy glasses or have an even deeper disdain for them; only time will tell.

Dexter undergoing laser therapy
Cold IV laser therapy, groovy baby

 

He lay comfortably as the technician worked her magic, of which I will attempt to obtain video or photographs. According to the American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation, “Often called low-level laser therapy, cold laser therapy or Class IV laser therapy, by any name, is still a relatively new concept that is being used more recently to treat dogs with arthritis, tendon or soft tissue injuries and to promote wound healing.”

Interestingly, this is one of the few modalities of treatment where humans have been the guinea pigs first. Laser therapy has been used in physical therapy programs for at least 40 years on people. This is cold laser therapy, so there is no burning involved, and according to the veterinarian at the rehab center, though risk of burn does exist, one would need to place the laser on the skin for a longer period of time. The laser treatment as Dexter receives it, involves short and continual movements over the affected areas.

The treatment Dexter is receiving will include both his legs, his spine, and his groin areas so that all areas are receiving equal attention. We are also instructed to massage him at home, which is a routine we established the day he entered my life. Belly rubs and back massages are the norm around here.

Cost

I would do anything for my dog, and I do have veterinary pet health insurance for him, of which this treatment is covered. The cost of the first visit, consult, exam and session was $90. The next five sessions were $200, so we are all set there. We can continue with the Traumeel and Heel tablets as needed since they are homeopathic. Do note, always have your dog’s bloodwork checked and follow the protocol your vet prescribes. Even too much of any “natural” supplement can damage people and/or pets.

Results

As we move along, I’ll be providing updates. I am hearing and reading really positive things when using class IV laser therapy in conjunction with the regimen provided by your dog’s veterinarian. We’re hoping to avoid surgery on either leg, so with laser beam intact, onward and upward we go.

UPDATE: I would have my dog go through cold laser therapy again, but ultimately our dog tore both his ACLs. Read The Everything Guide to ACL Surgery Here.

Have you ever tried unconventional therapies on your dog? Would you consider it? Bark at me in the comments below.

*Note: These results are reflective of our journey and not a promise nor indication of your dog’s journey. Please see a veterinarian before starting any treatment for your own dog(s).

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Comments

  1. What a wonderful, informative article. I never knew this treatment modality existed. I have bookmarked this page to refer if my pets ever have an injury that could be corrected with this type of treatment. I’ve never even heard of this for pets. You sure have terrific insight and information you share with your readers. Thank you.

  2. Good Luck Dexter…you are going to be just fine!!..and i think you will enjoy this special therapy. I didnt know about the homeopathic tablets..that’s good to know, too! Thanks for sharing info with us…get ready to heal, Dexter! xox

    • Thanks, Stella. I started taking the tablets, too, and they even helped the arthritis I have in my chest. Stay tuned 😉

  3. Oh Dexter – Buffy and Morgan are wishing you nothing but the best. you will be up and jumping in no time – except it’s good to “do as Mom tells you”. XXXOOO

  4. Such a great article Carol! Sherman tore his cruciate in December and we opted to try conservative therapy first before surgery. he has been undergoing laser treatment and we have been blogging about it too! Right now he is on his 4th treatment. We have seen great results! He’s been completely off of NSAIDS since the treatment and we are using joint supplements and a Chinese herb supplement for joints and tendons.
    Sherman’s process is a little different than Dexter’s-no glasses and the treatments are 10-15 minutes. The vet also uses an acupuncture attachment for part of the treatment, which I just realized last week! .I have been very happy with the results so far.

    Can’t wait to follow to follow updates and compare! Best of luck!

    • I just read through your journey. We are having a set back day due to Dex running down the stairs last night after a ball. So the baby gates are coming out of retirement. Thanks for chiming in and I am reading your blog and following along with Sherman’s progress. I really look forward to comparing notes. Many wags of success!

  5. Sorry about Dexter’s leg. Jasmine’s both knee ligaments went, so we are no strangers to this. One thing I know … the trip from a partially to fully torn ACL can be a short one.

    I’m totally a big fan of laser therapy, great stuff. Jasmine has certainly benefited a lot from these things.

    The two key points with cruciate damage are
    a) unstable joint can develop arthritis very quickly
    b) unstable joint won’t heal “tightly” enough.

    The main idea behind all the different knee repairs is to stabilize the joint. I know people who used conservative management successfully. But if it was me, I would definitely look for some method of stabilizing the joint, at least with a stifle brace.

    • Yeah I have that on my potential things to investigate and implement, Jana. Did Jasmine wear the brace?

      • Hi,
        If you’re still looking for a brace, I had luck with one from WoundWear. It definitely took a lot of pressure off knowing that I didn’t have to watch her every second of the day because the brace kept my dog in check.

        “Onward and Upward” Dexter!! Glad to hear laser therapy is working for you 🙂

        • Thx for the tip. We are good with the custom fit one and he has adapted quite well. I appreciate it though… more updates to come 😉 He is happy to have more mobility back and so am I!

    • Thanks, Caren. The hardest part is not allowing him to run and make it worse. ;(

  6. This is great information. I just lost my 17 1/2 year old dog, Chloe a few weeks ago, and we had worked magic with the length and quality of her life through alternative veterinary methods. We used chiropractic and accupuncture when she put her pelvis out at age 13. (Regular ER vets couldn’t find anything wrong with her, but her intense pain was obvious!) We opted not to go the route of chemo and radiation when she was diagnosed with a primary lung tumor at age 16. Instead, our integrative vet prescribed supplements and herbs. We had her on a diet for dogs with cancer, too. Btw, cancer did not win! In the end (really only the last week), her kidneys failed. Her vet referred to her as “the miracle pup”!

    • WOW that is amazing! I am so sorry for your loss…It does my heart such good to read how you beat the odds and what a great vet you have!

      • Thank you, Carol. I miss my girl more than I can say. Great vets (like great dogs) are a gift! It sounds like you have found one, too. I look forward to the progress Dexter is making with his recovery. My best to you both!!

        • We were doing really great until last night when he ran down the steps for a ball. So I had to get a baby gate out. Back to limping. I have to have eyes in the back of my head.