A Guide to Cold Laser Therapy for Dogs

Laser therapy is an emerging treatment in veterinary medicine, which is popular for its healing effects and ease of use. Why are dogs and their owners benefitting from this innovative therapy? Find out more about this increasingly popular therapeutic option.  

What is cold laser therapy?

Laser is an acronym for “light amplification of stimulated emission of radiation.” In layman’s terms, a laser is a focused beam of light whose wavelength and energy output vary based on its application. Low-level laser therapy, also known as cold laser therapy, uses low levels of light to modify tissues without causing damage. By contrast, “hot” or “thermal” lasers emit more powerful beams that can be used to cut or vaporize tissues during surgery. Laser pointers and barcode scanners are two other, less powerful lasers. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), each type of laser is classified according to its wavelength and energy output into one of four classes. The low-level therapeutic lasers are generally classified as Class 3 lasers, although some models fall under Class 2B. 

How can cold laser therapy help my dog?

Cold lasers use a wavelength (usually between 600 and 1000 nm) that causes photobiomodulation, or cellular manipulation. Research in the field of laser therapy is still evolving, but it appears that cold laser therapy can offer a wide variety of biological benefits to the patient by catalyzing a number of events that promote tissue repair. Laser therapy at low levels, for example, appears to cause:

  • Improved blood flow
  • Improved lymphatic drainage
  • Endorphin release
  • Increased protein synthesis
  • Increased production of tissue-repairing substances like collagen and Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP)

Low-level laser therapy reduces inflammation, accelerates wound healing, and reduces pain by triggering these beneficial physiological processes. All dogs can benefit from cold laser therapy, but those with underlying health conditions may find its healing potential particularly useful. In dogs with osteoarthritis, musculoskeletal injuries, intervertebral disc disease, hip dysplasia, and those recovering from surgery, laser therapy is often recommended. Even pets with liver disease and other organ dysfunction may benefit from low-level laser therapy. 

Why should I try cold laser therapy for my dog?

Laser therapy for dogs at home may provide health benefits, assuming your pet is in need of such treatment. However, this minimally invasive therapy also offers other advantages. Laser therapy is a painless procedure that many pets seem to enjoy. Sessions typically last from 15 to 30 minutes. Laser therapy may be performed by your veterinarian or you may be referred to a specialty hospital for sessions. Many veterinary facilities that offer cold laser therapy also offer additional services, such as physical therapy, hydrotherapy, or acupuncture, which can be combined with laser therapy for a multi-modal approach to your pet’s condition. 

Laser therapy is generally very safe as long as it is performed correctly and with a few precautions. If a laser beam is directed into the eye, it can cause retinal damage. Most facilities require patients, practitioners, and anyone else attending the laser session to wear special goggles to minimize this risk. Class 2B therapeutic lasers do not pose an ocular hazard and can even be purchased by pet owners to use in their own homes under the guidance of their veterinarian. 

Contact your family veterinarian to learn more about cold laser therapy or to determine if your dog is a good candidate.

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