Arthritis is a common condition in older dogs, and the first signs can be subtle. You may notice that your dog sometimes has trouble getting up off the sofa. Or, they may take the stairs a little slower than they used to.
Your vet can examine your dog to confirm an arthritis diagnosis and rule out other conditions or diseases. Fortunately, with the correct medication and support, pets with arthritis do not have to live in pain. Traditional treatments include a combination of medication, massage, physiotherapy, weight management programs, and chiropractic care. But laser therapy is a relatively newer treatment that can relieve discomfort and improve mobility. This therapy works by easing pain and inflammation at the cellular level. Keep reading for more information about laser therapy for dog arthritis.
What to Expect During a Laser Therapy Appointment
Depending on your dog’s size and the vet’s preference, your dog will sit on the floor or up on an exam table. Once your dog is comfortable, the vet will then place a handheld laser device over the arthritic joints. As long as your dog holds relatively still, you can talk to them and pet them throughout the session.
You, perhaps your dog, and all veterinary staff present during a laser therapy session must wear protective goggles. Some dogs do not appreciate the placement of goggles on their face. At other times, the laser device might not come with goggles that can comfortably fit a dog’s face. Therefore, your dog’s eyes might be covered in some other way. They might have a towel placed on their head instead or have their head turned away (gently restrained by a staff member). Alternatively, they may be mildly sedated before their eyes are covered. Laser beams—when pointed directly at the eye—can cause retinal damage.
How Does Laser Therapy for Dog Arthritis Work?
Your dog’s first laser therapy session may seem strange because you can’t see the laser “do” anything. Laser therapy promotes healing at a microscopic level, as the laser promotes cellular repair and regeneration.
Your dog’s stiffness and swelling can improve as laser therapy increases blood flow, relaxes muscles, promotes healing, and decreases inflammation.
What Are the Risks and Side Effects of Laser Therapy for Dogs?
While all medical treatments carry some level of risk for pets, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) regards laser treatment as “safe if performed correctly, using the proper settings and treatment durations.” High-powered devices can cause burns if used incorrectly.
Your vet will examine your dog to ensure they can safely receive this treatment. Laser therapy may cause existing tumors to grow faster depending on the power output level of the laser and the number of applications. Therefore, it may not be an option for dogs with cancer.
Can a Pregnant Dog Receive Laser Treatment Therapy?
Most likely not. Laser therapy can pose a risk to puppies in utero. Most laser therapy devices meant for dogs do not recommend or guarantee safety when used on pregnant animals.
How Much Does Canine Laser Therapy Cost?
As with all veterinarian services, the cost of canine laser therapy varies by location and clinic. Dog owners can expect to pay between $40 to $100 per treatment.
You can get a better idea of the total cost by asking your vet questions like:
Pet insurance may cover all or part of the cost. Check with your carrier to see if your policy covers laser therapy treatment.
Should You Do Laser Therapy on Dogs at Home?
No. There are numerous handheld laser therapy devices for sale. However, these are not good options to treat canine arthritis. At the very least, you will waste money on a product that does not benefit your dog. Many laser therapy devices sold over the counter are too weak to be effective. Conversely, if they are too strong or if you use the incorrect settings, you will cause more harm than good and make your dog’s condition much worse. You should always have a veterinarian perform laser therapy for your dog.
Worst case scenario, your dog may have another condition that won’t improve with—or can even be made worse by—home laser therapy.
Laser therapy for dog arthritis works by easing pain and inflammation at the cellular level. Your vet may recommend this treatment in conjunction with massage, chiropractic care, and medication. Do not use handheld devices sold over the counter, as only a vet should administer laser therapy.
Featured Image Credit: msgrafixx, Shutterstock