Laser Therapy: What it is and How it Works


By Ruthie Bently

My beloved dog Skye had a bad accident in December and severed two ligaments in her left leg. I found out the vet used laser therapy in her rehabilitation, and as a responsible pet owner, I wanted to learn more about it.

I know lasers have been around for many years and that the word itself is an acronym (light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation). The term laser was coined by Gordon Gould (a Columbia University grad student) in a paper published at a conference in 1959, and applies to a very powerful form of visible light energy in a single wavelength. I remember watching several movies where the hero was going to be cut or injured by a laser, and a Johnny Quest cartoon in the 1960s where the villains used lasers to blow up ships. So what is my vet doing using a laser on my dog?

I needn’t have worried. While lasers can be used in surgery to cut through tissue and cauterize it, laser therapy is not surgery and does not use a cutting laser. Laser therapy has been used on pets for over twenty-five years, and has gained credence as an alternative therapy. Its use as a healing therapy has been documented in over 3,000 publications. As the term laser cannot be used in any treatment other than a superficial one, another acronym was used: LEPT. This stands for Low Energy Photon Therapy, and the machine is called a “cold LASER.” The colors used most often are red (at 610 to 810 nanometers) and infrared (at 800 nanometers or higher wavelength). The color used depends on the energy needed to stimulate a specific healing process in the body.

Pulsed and continuous are the two kinds of laser therapy used by veterinarians. You should speak with your veterinarian to determine your best course of action in using laser therapy. They will be the ones best qualified to advise you on which method should be used, depending on your dog’s situation.

Continuous laser therapy is used when inflammation is present. It is used to stimulate blood vessels to increase blood circulation and heat to the area affected by the inflammation, as well as dispersing fluid buildup to the area. This method also helps to reduce any pain associated with the inflamed area and is used to help heal surgical incisions, chronic ear problems, surface injuries or wounds.

Pulsed laser therapy is used when immediate pain relief is needed. It interferes with the transmission of pain impulses to the brain and is used in pain management. It works well for long-backed dogs like Basset Hounds or Dachshunds that are prone to back pain, though it can help any dog with back pain. It is also used for overexertion during sports competitions or regular exercise, as well as arthritis.

Other health issues laser therapy is used to treat are traumas to the body due to a wound or injury to bone or muscle. Effects of surgery from the removal of a growth or a broken bone can be sped up by laser therapy. Inflammatory conditions that can be helped are gingivitis, granulomas caused by excessive licking, ear problems (either acute or chronic), inflammation of the anal glands and idiopathic cystitis (an inflammation of the bladder). Neurological conditions, nasal problems, and dermatological issues have also be cited to have been helped. Laser therapy can be used to stimulate acupuncture points for pets unable to tolerate the acupuncture needles.

A word of caution: while laser units are available for purchase by the general public, there is a danger of applying the therapy at the wrong frequency. This can cause disruptive rather than healing benefits. Protective glasses should be used, as there is a danger of eye damage to the patient, veterinarian or handler. This can happen either through reflection or directly by the beam, especially with the infrared wavelengths. Laser therapy should only be administered by a veterinarian or by someone you have been referred to by your veterinarian. While you can treat your own animal, if you treat someone else’s animal you could be cited for practicing veterinary medicine without a license. If you are considering purchasing one of these units, I strongly recommend asking your vet to teach you how to properly use it.

The benefits of laser therapy are that it can be used to treat many kinds of injuries, without drugs, pain or surgery. It stimulates the body to heal itself by using non-thermal photons administered to the body to be absorbed by the injured cells. The injured cells are stimulated and the rate of metabolism is increased. This in turn increases circulation which reduces inflammation, relieves pain and accelerates the body’s natural healing process.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

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