Last updated on July 19, 2017
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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?
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!
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.
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.
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.
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).