When our pets suffer from medical problems, we try to find inexpensive, painless and natural ways to help them heal rather than simply mask symptoms as is often the case with conventional medications.
Among the many natural therapies that are available today is the non-invasive Companion Laser Therapy. A relatively new advancement in pet care, this is a non-invasive treatment that actually stimulates the body to heal from within by using low level lasers to administer non-thermal photons of light to the body to be absorbed by the injured cells. The cells are then stimulated and respond with a higher rate of metabolism. This results in increased circulation from the body, an anti-inflammatory reaction, relief from pain and an acceleration of the healing process.
"With this laser, you can treat wounds, infections, dermatological conditions, periodontal disease, arthritis, dysplasia, anal gland rupture, otitis, even things like feline lower urinary tract disease, and inflammatory bowel disease," said Felicia Asher, a licensed vet technician at Little Friends of Ferndale on 9 Mile Rd. in Ferndale. "Here at Little Friends, we're all about comfort levels, quality of life, and finding things that are safe as far as pain management is concerned. We've been using laser therapy for about a year and have seen really positive results."
During a treatment session, according to Asher, animals are fully awake and almost always relax as the immediate relief of pain makes them more comfortable and less anxious. Depending on the injury or disorder, it may take anywhere from a few minutes up to a half hour to treat each spot. "Owners are with their pet the entire time and no sedation is needed. Both the owner and the technician wear special eye protection and the animals head is directed away from the light. We make it a happy experience for the animal with treats and lots of petting," said Asher. "There are no side effects like with drugs. We encourage owners to pay attention to their pet at home after therapy. How they respond determines whether we need to increase or decrease the number of treatments. We don't want to do something that we're not seeing any improvement with, but so far, almost all of our patients have seen really good results."
The cost is affordable at around $40 per treatment. How often treatments are needed varies and depends upon what is being treated, but Asher has seen the most difference at the rate of one treatment every other week.
Asher explained that the laser therapy system is user-friendly by allowing the technician to specify the size of animal, skin color, coat color and part of the body being treated. The laser markers, wattage and frequency can also be adjusted as recommended laser specifications are necessary to make sure the correct laser head is selected for the procedure.
"It's important to make sure the system is being used properly as the laser can create a thermal burn if the technician is inexperienced," said Asher. "We use a class four non-surgical laser that emits heat and light. Depending on what is being treated, a non-contact or contact head is attached to the hand piece and we are very careful during the procedure."
Pet owners should be aware that some manufacturers are trying to enter the veterinary market with lasers that may not have been thoroughly tested or approved by the FDA. Asher urges pet owners to be a little cautious when considering the alternative treatment for the first time to ensure a positive experience. There are no major risks associated with laser therapy, but Asher said the treatment has the potential to accelerate a disease such as cancer in older animals.
"With geriatric patients who may receive treatment for arthritis, we have to watch for masses that may be cancerous or suspicious. We do not treat them with the laser. If you're stimulating cells to multiply and do something faster, we don't want to spread the cancer," said Asher.
Although laser therapy is not a cure-all for every pet, Dr. Steven Barta from Veterinary General in Shelby Township has seen laser therapy do "amazing" things.
Dr. Barta pointed out that laser therapy has human and pet applications. "Multi-million dollar athletes are being treated with laser therapy. Professional sports teams aren't going to play around. They will use what works," he said, adding that he has used the laser therapy for routine spays and neuters, to treat soft tissue injuries and post-op surgical incisions. "This treatment cuts healing time in half. Pet owners see a difference immediately. The signs are visible in their pet's behavior. For example, when a senior pet who may not be as agile as they used to be can jump up on the bed again. In some cases, we have slowly reduced the use of medication and replaced drug therapy with laser therapy."
"We're really glad we have this. We use it several times a day and we love it. It's a wonderful healing tool," said Dr. Barta about the system he and his staff have been using for a year. "We made a commitment when we saw how well it works."