Snap. Crackle. Pop. The sounds of a cereal but also the sounds my dog’s leg made in early 2013 when he partially tore his ACL (anterior cruciate ligament), sometimes called CCL. After a fun play session at the park in early March, my dog, Dexter, developed a lameness and bit of a hobble gait at night and after rising from a resting position. Despite rest and not allowing him to jump off furniture nor walk up or down stairs, a significant difference did not occur. A vet visit was in order.
After a thorough examination and a bit of manipulation, flexion and extension movements, a 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.
We opted for cold laser therapy in order to help the injury along, promote blood flow and healing to the torn ligament, and hopefully not have to go the surgical route. Six sessions total took place and the experience itself was positive and one we highly recommend (cold laser for dogs). The ligament did eventually fully tear and surgery ensued.
However, cold laser treatment is something we would recommend and would do again. Here’s the reality and why:
What is Cold Laser Therapy for Dogs?
Cold 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.
Our First Experience with Cold Laser Treatment
After a thorough examination and agreement on the ACL partial tear diagnosis, a treatment began, consisting of 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 Doggles. All parties in the room need to wear them.
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 our dog received it, involves short and continual movements over the affected areas.
Costs of Cold Laser Treatment
The cost of the first visit, consult, exam and session was $90. The next five sessions were $200, so it was very reasonable. Our veterinary pet health insurance covered about 70 percent of that cost, so it was a win-win.
Why Does Cold Laser Therapy Work?
“As more veterinary schools adopt laser therapy and teach its basic science to students, growing numbers of practitioners will recognize that laser therapy, when properly applied and appropriately dosed, provides clinically significant benefits and expands our options for delivering compassionate veterinary care with fewer drugs and less surgery,” according to Veterinary Practice News.
It involves no drugs, no pain, and is a non-surgical viable option. It is not one and done and treatments can occur with a pre-determined schedule.
The cold laser uses a beam of light as it gently passed over the affected area so that the cellular function is increased. This new cellular function may help reduce inflammation, increase circulation, help your dog’s recovery and healing postoperatively, and even releases endorphins so the body feels less pain. During our visits, many arthritic dogs could be seen checking in for appointments with the cold laser therapists.
Each dog is different. Our dog’s ACL did progress to a full tear, but I am fully confident that the treatments received with the cold laser therapy helped control inflammation and pain from the partial tear. I would not hesitate to use cold laser therapy treatments for my dog in the future for any number of issues, including arthritis.
Cold Laser Therapy for Dogs Facts
- LASER means Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission Rays.
- A laser-certified technician is likely to do the treatments on your dog, which last about 15-30 minutes each, depending on the issue, location, and the dog.
- Laser therapy is used for everything from arthritis to ligament injuries, nerve damage to ear and skin infections and inflammation. Yes, you read that right: Ear infections: Are you hearing me, Cocker parents? If traditional medicine is not helping, many times cold laser might!
- There are different types of lasers for dogs. Therapeutic lasers are not all the same. According to VCA Hospitals, in veterinary medicine, “The two classes of therapeutic laser in common use are class III and class IV. Class III therapeutic lasers are lower powered and typically use shorter wavelengths. Class IV therapeutic lasers are higher powered and use longer wavelengths.”
- Dogs do not have to be shaved in the area of cold laser treatment.
- Laser therapy overall improves the way tissue repairs and renews itself.
- “Cold laser has limitations. It can be harmful for pets with cancer, and it shouldn’t be directed at the retina of the eye or over tattoos, or areas of active bleeding,” per an article by Dr. Marty Becker for the Sacramento Bee. VCA Hospitals say therapeutic laser should not be used over areas of active bleeding or over the eyes, testicles, tumors, pregnancies, or growth plates in the bones.
- If you are like us and want to geek out on the techie end of things, check out what the Merck Veterinary Manual says about laser therapy for dogs in general.
Medicine Vs. Mom
In an effort to give our readers a full breadth of knowledge on dog health and wellness topics, we are sharing the perspective of former veterinary technician, Rachel Shephard of My Kid Has Paws. Check out her take on cold laser therapy for dogs.
Don’t Stop Now
Keep reading on how you can help keep your dog healthy with these related articles:
Other Dogs Who Used Cold Laser Therapy
In the pet blogging world, we know many other dog moms with a dog who received cold laser treatment and their experiences. These posts are worth checking out:
Would you ever consider cold laser therapy for your dog? Has your dog ever received it? Let us know 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).