There have been many new innovations in veterinary medicine in recent years. Some have been taken from human medicine and adapted to animals. Some have begun use for people and pets around the same time. One of the newest technologies we have adopted at Blairstown Animal Hospital is the use of therapeutic laser for the treatment of injuries, inflammatory conditions and post-surgical pain relief.
The word “laser” is an acronym for “Light Amplification through the Stimulated Emission of Radiation”. Lasers have many uses — your CD and DVD players use them, as well as the scanner at the supermarket. Powerful lasers are used by the military in defense systems and can be capable of destroying an orbiting satellite. In between those extremes are medical lasers. There are two major uses of lasers in veterinary medicine. One is surgical — these lasers can cut and burn tissue and are used to make incisions and cauterize. Extreme care must be taken with these because too much intensity will damage tissue. The other use is therapeutic. These lasers are very safe and do not damage most tissues. Over the past ten years, they have gained popularity in both human and veterinary medicine. Many human chiropractors and rehabilitation facilities now use laser therapy.
Our K-Laser is the newest addition to our arsenal of pain-relief modalities. It uses a technique called “photobiomodulation” which involves using specific wavelengths of light from visible red to infra-red to deliver its effects. Not only can it provide pain relief, it also shortens healing time, increases circulation and decreases swelling. The laser works on a cellular level and targets damaged cells while not affecting healthy ones.
The unit is small and portable, allowing us to treat patients in the exam room, treatment area and right in their cages if necessary. Specific settings allow us to adjust for the area being treated, the size of the pet and the reason for the treatment. There are many indications for use of a therapeutic laser. For acute injuries or post-surgically, only one or two treatments may be needed. Inflammatory conditions such as otitis (ear infections), stomatitis (mouth infections commonly seen in cats) and lick granulomas all have been shown to respond to laser therapy. It may require six or seven treatments in these cases. Pets with chronic arthritis also have been shown to benefit from laser therapy. The affected area is often treated three times the first week, twice the second and once the third. At that point, continued treatment monthly or so can continue to provide relief. Many animals will feel better after the first or second treatment.
One of the biggest advantages of laser therapy is that it is compatible with other types of treatments including pain medications, anti-inflammatories, antibiotics, physical therapy and joint supplements. Treatment time is only about three to eight minutes (longer if multiple areas need addressing) and is completely painless. There is a mild warming sensation in the area and in dark-coated animals, the hair may become noticeably warm to the touch. The only caution is that the laser will damage the retina if it penetrates directly into the eye, so everyone in the room wears special eye protection and the technician works carefully when directing the beam.
We are very excited about our new laser and if you have any questions or want to discuss if it may help your pet, please let us know.