Laser therapy helping dogs heal

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CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. - As our pets age, it's tough to watch them get sick with diseases like we do. Now an easy non-invasive laser treatment could do the trick to keeping them pain free.

For Jackie Kaehler, a rehab facility in Coral Springs saved her dog, Sydney, the day his body nearly failed him.  Now, it's his happy place.

"He enjoys coming here. He gets very, very excited and he starts singing and barking just as soon as we turn in off of the street," said Kaehler.

She remembers what happened to her best friend.

"It was quite sudden. I was outside and then he was at the back door. And I'm talking to him and he couldn't move," Kaehler said.

At four years old or roughly 28 in people years, Sydney found himself paralyzed.  Dr. Elizabeth Rawson says it's not uncommon.

"The discs sort of deteriorate over time and then they rupture," said Rawson, a veterinarian at Coral Springs Animal Hospital.

Surgery saved his back, but left him with a lot of pain. That's where a new cold laser treatment comes in, known as photo-biotherapy.

"The light actually, it brings blood supply to the area. It decreases pain by a couple of different mechanisms, including the nerves themselves and endorphin release," Rawson said.

It's most commonly used for arthritis, which affects 20 percent of dogs.

"The owners will say, 'boy, after their laser treatment, they feel so much better and they get around easier'," said Rawson.

Without side effects, Kaehler is amazed at how much Sydney has improved.

"After he was taking his laser therapy, it was like a new person. It's brought him back to almost to his natural state he was before he broke his back," Kaehler said.

Now he's back to his favorite pastime -- squirrel hunting.

The noninvasive therapy can take as little as ten minutes in a small dog or cat or about a half hour for larger animals with more arthritis. The most chronic conditions require about four treatments to see at least a 50 percent improvement in mobility and pain reduction. It can even be used on horses.

One note of caution though: Rawson points out that because the laser stimulates blood flow to the treated area, it should never be used on animals with cancer.

Additional Information:

BACKGROUND: There are two broad categories of pain that are useful to think about because treatment options vary pretty significantly between them. Acute pain is suddenly occurring pain in response to an injury that disappears as the injury heals. Chronic pain is pain that persists after an injury has healed or that persists due to a damaging process that also persists, such as arthritis. (Source:

NEW THERAPY: Lasers are used by veterinarians to treat acute and chronic injuries, pain and inflammation, and are becoming increasingly popular. They are also being used after surgical procedures to speed up the healing process. (Source:

The cold laser therapy is a noninvasive procedure that uses light to stimulate cells and increase blood circulation. At the correct laser wavelength, pain signals are reduced and nerve sensitivity decreases. The procedure also releases endorphins, or natural painkillers, but it is not recommended for animals that have cancer because the device can stimulate blood flow to cancer cells.

The procedure is based on the idea that light is absorbed into the cells. The process, known as photo-biotherapy, stimulates protein synthesis and cell metabolism, which improves cell health and functionality.

The therapy can take as little as eight to 10 minutes on a small dog or cat, or about a half hour for bigger dogs with more arthritic areas.

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