4 questions answered about cold laser therapy for animals
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In this post we help you reduce the risk of thinking cold lasers are a weapon from Star Wars.
A cold laser might sound like a futuristic weapon from a sci-fi movie, but it’s actually a helpful therapy that has a surprising amount of uses. We talked to Dr. Fiona Lee Caldwell from Idaho Veterinary Hospital about cold laser therapy for cats and dogs.
Cold lasers are also known as low level lasers. As opposed to "a hot laser, which is used to make incisions and cut things, a cold laser is meant to enhance the cell’s ability to heal," Dr. Caldwell told us. While a laser with higher energy will damage cells, the theory behind low level lasers is that the light stimulates cells just enough and in just the right ways to encourage healing without causing damage. "It’s thought to decrease inflammation, reduce scarring, and help cells regenerate and heal faster."
Cold laser therapy encourages healing without causing damage.
"It has great use in orthopedics, with injured knees and elbows." Muscles are often the target of cold laser therapy, especially when they’ve been injured in an accident or are degrading with normal wear and tear. Cold laser therapy can encourage muscle repair and help reduce pain.
"We use it a ton for wounds that aren’t healing very well." Not only are cold lasers non-invasive, but a veterinarian doesn’t even need to clip the hair or shave the affected area to use a cold laser. This means that the wound will heal as naturally as possible with just a bit of a technological boost.
Cold laser therapy can encourage muscle repair and help reduce pain.
"All of our orthopedic surgeries always have cold laser therapy as a part of our package." Surgeries are incredibly invasive and traumatic for many animals. Cold laser therapy is an easy and quick follow-up that helps the animal heal faster and feel better after a shocking experience.
Dr. Caldwell admitted that cold laser therapy is still on the fringe of veterinary medicine, but told us that "it’s gaining some mainstream footing as we’re seeing results." One major downside of cold laser therapy is that it’s not a tried and proven therapeutic method. "It was actually initially used in people. Doctors kind of poo-pooed it because they didn’t see good results and then insurance companies wouldn’t cover it." With animals, however, there has been more experimentation to see what wavelengths and energy levels will work for specific treatments.
For most people, having a large library of scientific research doesn’t matter when choosing the therapy. "It’s really non-invasive, it’s not painful, it’s quick. We’ve had pretty good luck with it," Dr. Caldwell told us. Most animals feel better after getting the therapy, and pet parents see a remarkable change in their animal afterwards.
A single laser therapy treatment is relatively inexpensive, with costs ranging between $30 and $60. The affordability issue is more about multiple treatments - the more treatments your pet needs, the less affordable it becomes. Some clinics will discount the cost of multiple treatments, with some short sessions priced as low as $10. Most pet insurance will also cover cold laser therapy treatments. If your vet offers cold laser therapy, ask them about prices and possible discounts.
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