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Class IV Laser Therapy: A Healing Option for Older Dogs

Old dogs are regal and wise. I read a quote the other day about our beautiful white-faced friends that was heartbreaking in its truth. “You came home and I did my best to get up and greet you. Getting old hurts. I hope you understand. I still love you.”

Wouldn’t it be nice to put a little spring back in the step of our beloved and devoted older pets? This is the most rewarding part of my work as a mobile veterinarian – providing laser therapy. I love feedback such as this message from a client about her dear 15-year-old Springer Spaniel who had been sleeping late into the morning, reluctant to get moving: “She had extra energy this morning, woke up at 5am for breakfast way early and I took her for an early morning swim!” or from the human mom of a sweet old Australian Shepherd: “Towards the end of our evening walk he was frisking around and running a little… like a younger dog!”

We have come to accept the slowing down, the difficulty standing up, and the struggle to find a comfortable position for sleep, as part of the aging process. However, if their pain is recognized and addressed, these older animals can often be helped immensely, and they can once again enjoy favorite activities with their families, well into their golden years.

Managing chronic pain in arthritic dogs often involves utilizing several of the different pain medications currently available.  Often, however, a patient’s response to a medication plateaus, and progress halts. Or, the presence of underlying kidney or liver disease limits the ability to use the full range of available medications.

Class IV laser therapy offers a non-invasive, non-pharmaceutical treatment option that reduces pain, decreases inflammation, accelerates healing, and promotes tissue regeneration.

Everyone is familiar with the effects of electromagnetic energy on biological processes. Plants convert light energy to chemical energy through photosynthesis. Sunlight stimulates the chemical conversion of a prohormone in our skin to Vitamin D.

Class IV lasers produce a single, monochromatic beam of parallel rays of light that penetrates deeply into tissues. The fancy scientific term for this process is called “photobiomodulation,” which simply means that the energy of light interacts both chemically and biologically with cells to supercharge them and increase their energy. Sluggish cells are energized. Blood flow to damaged tissues increases, natural, pain-reducing endorphins are released, and pain-related nerve signals are diminished.

Class IV lasers were approved by the FDA in 2005, and their incorporation into human rehabilitation, wound care, and sports medicine programs has been rapid. Professional, Olympic, and collegiate athletes increasingly rely on laser therapy to return to the field, court, or ice more quickly.

For our older animals, laser therapy offers a pleasant, soothing treatment option that is relaxing and rejuvenating. Laser therapy is cumulative, and the best responses in chronic conditions such as arthritis occur after several treatments. Most protocols call for twice weekly treatments over the course of a month and then tapering the treatment schedule to one that maintains the positive effects.

Treatments for older arthritic animals typically take about 45 minutes to address all of the affected joints. There are no side effects, and laser therapy can be used alongside other treatments, including pharmaceuticals, acupuncture, special diets, supplements, chiropractic, and physical therapy.

There are quite a few area veterinary hospitals that currently offer Class IV laser therapy. In addition, mobile laser therapy services allow the patient to receive therapy comfortably at home while eliminating stress, fatigue, and pain from repeated travel.

Along with treating arthritis, almost any condition in our animal companions that involves pain or inflammation can benefit from laser therapy, including hot spots, lick granulomas, wounds, snake bites, muscle and nerve pain, intervertebral disc disease, and anal gland disease, to name a few. Cats, birds, and small mammals are all receptive to laser therapy as well, and it is often a first line of treatment when medical options are limited in these species.

Dr. Laurin Cooke, a veterinarian in Black Mountain, offers Class IV laser therapy through her house call practice, Creature Comfort Mobile Laser and Healing Support.

photo credit: romanboed The Head of an Old Dog (Explored) via photopin (license)


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