Cold laser therapy, also known as, rehabilitation laser therapy, sounds like something out of Star Wars but it is used by most veterinarians to treat acute and chronic inflammation.

It can treat acute and chronic injuries, sprains and strains, arthritis, swelling due to back disc problems, wounds and infections (including ear and anal sac infections). It also helps to regenerate nerve tissue after surgery, and decreases pain and inflammation from surgical procedures and so much more.

Cold laser therapy is used as an essential pain management tool by most major sports teams in the United States, including professional football, baseball, basketball and hockey; colleges; and many Olympic programs.

It is noninvasive and painless. It doesn’t require sedation or shaving of the affected area. It uses infrared light, which one cannot see or feel, to reduce inflammation, swelling and pain.

The laser essentially powers up the mitochondria of your dog’s or cat’s cells, which encourages their cells to create and regenerate more cells. This improves blood flow and stimulates the healing process.

It is a safe procedure, and is neither cold nor hot. The frequency of light energy that’s used in a motion grid pattern has no risk of burning your dog.

There is a concern of retinal damage to anyone who looks directly at the laser beam. To prevent this, the laser operator wears protective glasses as does the pet and anyone else in the room. Your pal’s glasses are goggles that look like goggles worn in World War I biplanes, except they are dark like sunglasses. So many people take photos of their pal in these because they look beyond cute and are very comfortable.

The American Kennel Club noted that many dogs find it relaxing and enjoyable, and even fall asleep during the therapy. Dogs are typically allowed to either stand or lie down, while cats typically lie down. Both dogs and cats may also be held by a family member during the procedure, whichever makes them the most comfortable.

Treatments vary in length, but most sites require three to 10 minutes. Laser treatments for dogs and cats are cumulative, so each additional treatment facilitates a greater improvement in your pal’s condition.

The length and frequency of treatments vary by condition, so allow your veterinarian to help devise a sufficient laser treatment schedule for your canine/feline companion. Average treatments are two to three times a week for two to three weeks.

Once the treatments are over, you will be the monitor of your pet’s condition such as with arthritis or chronic lameness. When you see the symptoms returning, you can simply contact your veterinarian and have an additional treatment. Treatment for surgical wounds and dental extractions and heavy dental cleanings start before the dog or cat wakes up from anesthesia.

Older dogs and cats only become closer to our hearts as they age. It is a proven fact that dogs and cats do not have long enough life spans.

Geriatric dogs may be experiencing pain shown by having difficulty getting up and down, intermittent lameness, lameness with exercise, muscles in hind legs trembling, restless at night in bed, sitting in abnormal positions, whimpering, being grouchy sometimes and not wanting to get into car.

Elderly cats may show pain by not jumping up on the counter, no longer climbing the cat tree and moving at a slower pace.

Laser treatments are an excellent way to provide pain relief for your older pal. Laser therapy reduces pain by reducing inflammation through vasodilatation (the opening of blood vessels) and also by activating the lymphatic drainage system, thus draining swollen areas resulting in a reduction in swelling, especially inflammation due to arthritis and disc disease.

A reduction in inflammation and swelling is always a reduction in pain and thus a better ability to move around.

The lasers also stimulate nerve cells that block pain signals from being transmitted to the brain, thereby decreasing nerve sensitivity. Because there is less inflammation, less swelling and an interruption of pain signals to the brain, your pal will experience less pain.

Laser treatments for dogs and cats also stimulate the production of high levels of naturally produced endorphins that further counteract your pal’s pain.

Laser therapy improves the quality of a pet’s life as well as the life of its owner, because if your pal is happy, you are happy.

Contact your veterinarian regarding cold laser treatment for your dog or cat. Santa Barbara has a great all-encompassing rehabilitation facility for dogs called Atlas Rehabilitation for Canines. The facility, at 3208 State St., has many modalities to rehab dogs after surgical procedures, especially after orthopedic surgeries and chronic conditions such as intervertebral disc disease and general geriatric arthritic problems.

And remember to bring your phone to take photos of your pal wearing goggles.

— Dr. Bonnie Franklin is a relief veterinarian who grew up in Santa Barbara. She earned her doctorate of veterinary medicine from a joint program of Washington State and Oregon State universities, a master’s degree in wildlife biology from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, and does consulting work with the U.S. Forest Service. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

Bonnie Franklin

Bonnie Franklin DVM

Dr. Bonnie Franklin is a relief veterinarian who grew up in Santa Barbara. She earned her doctorate of veterinary medicine from a joint program of Washington State and Oregon State universities, a master’s degree in wildlife biology from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, and does consulting work with the U.S. Forest Service. The opinions expressed are her own.