Tripping the Light Fantastic: Laser Therapy for a Dog’s Pain

Tripper is a 12-year-old male German short-haired Pointer. He is very lucky to have found an amazing home and loving owners who will not give up on him. Tripper became a patient at Oakview in 2011. He developed severe back problems while under our care, which led to a long road of testing, surgeries, and therapies. The past year, he has really earned his frequent flyer miles, visiting us three times a week for laser and physical therapy.

It all began in February of 2014. Tripper presented to us because his back legs were bothering him, and the day  of his appointment he could not stand. Dr. Hankison performed a physical exam to look for pain, test reflexes and evaluate neurological function. We sedated him and took x-rays of his joints and spine. Throughout the lumbar-thoracic spine (upper and lower back), there was loss of disc space indicating IVDH (intervertebral disc herniation). This is where the cushioning discs that lie between the vertebrae of the spine either burst or bulge out into the spinal cord space. The disc was pressing on the nerves running through the spinal cord causing Tripper’s pain and paralysis.

Back x-rays - Oakview Vet Plover Stevens Point WI

Dr. Hankison prescribed multiple pain relievers, a muscle relaxer, and companion laser therapy to help with the pain and inflammation. Tripper was on strict instructions to rest and heal. After the first laser treatment, the owners felt there was improvement. By the end of that month, we were using laser therapy routinely twice weekly. With this protocol, we were able to decrease the amount of pain medications Tripper needed.

Often, pain medications can often be decreased by using laser therapy.

After a few weeks, Tripper had not regained any function of his rear limbs. Dr. Hankison reevaluated him. His pain was under control, but he still had difficulty walking and moving around normally.  He had received seven laser treatments of his thoracic and lumbar spine. Mobility was not improving as expected, so Dr. Hankison referred Tripper to UW Madison Vet Clinic’s Neurology department.

At UW Madison, Tripper had an MRI to further evaluate his spine. The MRI was consistent with an intervertebral disc herniation which unfortunately tends to get progressively worse. After discussing the findings with his owners, surgery seemed to be the best option for Tripper.

Tripper’s Back Surgery

Tripper was anesthetized the next day and had a hemilaminectomy surgery, where the disc material that had ruptured was removed in order to relieve the pressure from the spinal cord. We all knew that Tripper had a long road of recovery ahead of him, but no one ever gave up. After surgery, he underwent physical therapy and came to us numerous times a week for laser treatments.
Tripper did very well after surgery, and although he did not return back to normal, he did show signs of improvement. He could place his feet correctly without knuckling over and was able to bear his own weight. The laser treatments that Tripper received after his surgery definitely helped speed the healing process.

Tripper - Oakview Vet Plover Stevens Point WI

More Problems for Tripper

For almost 3 years, Tripper just enjoyed the life of a spoiled dog. But, in May of 2017, he started limping on his right front limb. His owners had learned from experience that delays in treating spinal cord issues decrease chances of recovery, so they immediately brought him in for an exam. Dr. Hankison localized his pain to the extension of his right shoulder. The initial plan was medication and rest, but Tripper started to have even more troubles.

First, he started having trouble getting up after laying down. Tripper seemed to be knuckling both hind legs again (not being able to keep his paws from flipping upside down). Also, as Tripper urinated outside, he would frequently fall over. The owners used a sling at home to help him keep balance but knew there was something seriously wrong and took another trip back to UW Madison.

Another MRI was preformed and which showed multiple areas with intervertebral disc herniation. Tripper was taken back to surgery once more.

After his second hemilaminectomy in 2017, Tripper did not regain much function of his back legs. We continued physical therapy and laser treatments multiple times a week. All this helped him heal and gave him improvements in mobility.

At this point, Tripper’s owners were using a padded sling to help him get around. Then, they got him his own wheelchair. He was pretty excited to be able to run again on his own!

Tripper no longer has much feeling in his hind limbs or tail. His front legs have had to take over much of the work, so he still gets laser therapy three times a week for the past year, but now for his front legs and shoulders. Trippers’ dad says, “I am not sure how we would cope with three times weekly physical therapy sessions without the laser therapy for his front legs.” Even though Tripper has reached a plateau in his progress, we still continue the physical therapy and the laser treatments. It keeps his muscles strong and reduces pain and stress to his front end.

Tripper is still in bright spirits even after all he has been through. He is always happy to walk in the door and spend the day with us!

Christina - Oakview Vet Plover Stevens Point WI
Christina and Tripper

Tripper’s dad, Greg wanted to share a few words:

“It’s been a long road of recovery for Trip following his latest back surgery and the weekly physical therapy in addition with the laser treatments so substantially make a difference in his comfort levels. Having the laser treatment available to treat all the other areas of Trippers body that take up the slack and work so hard during the physical therapy is quite beneficial. I think Trip’s situation is somewhat unique. He overcompensates with his front legs for the feeling deficits in his rear. Doing this daily simply has put a strain on his front legs. I know Trip feels the difference after getting his front end lasered. I can easily see the difference if we skipped a few laser therapy sessions after his physical therapy. “
“I’ll admit, I was a bit skeptical a few years ago when we first heard of the laser treatment. But as you all know, we’ve used the laser treatments for both post-surgery recovery and now the more recuperative physical therapy related sessions. I was wrong to be skeptical about laser treatments. Sure they’re not cure all, but I’ve seen the results, and I miss seeing the results when we skip sessions. I know Tripper feels better following the laser treatment. Really, that’s the bottom line.”

While laser treatment is not a cure, it is a very helpful tool to manage pain and encourage healing. It helps to attack pain from as many angles as possible, so the combination of medication, physical therapy, laser therapy, and good old TLC is what has helped Tripper to have a good quality of life even with his paralysis. We applaud his mom and dad for going the extra mile!

I am grateful that Tripper’s owners, Greg and Tammy, have allowed us to be a part of Tripper’s care. I’ve learned so much about laser therapy and physical therapy. Plus I’ve earned the love of a dog, and you can’t beat that! In fact, Tripper has a large team of humans behind him who all feel lucky to know him!

written by Christina Brandes, CVT

Christina - Oakview Vet Plover Stevens Point WI

 

Christina graduated from Madison Area Technical College. She joined us in 2016.
She and her husband David have a baby boy named Kaysen. They also share their home with 2 cats, Moby and Annabelle, a bearded dragon named Leonard, and a gecko named Clyde.
In her spare time, Christina enjoys camping and other outdoor activities.

Cold Laser Therapy for Pets: The Healing Process

Review from the last post “Fundamentals of Laser Therapy for Pets“:

Cold laser therapy is a noninvasive procedure that uses light to decrease pain and inflammation of the cells. The laser itself is a beam of light that travels at certain frequencies and penetrates into the tissue. The laser goes deep into the cells to start a chain of chemical reactions known as photobiostimulation. Pain is relieved by the release of endorphins and it stimulate injured cells to heal faster. Our Class IV Cold Therapy laser that we have here at Oakview Vet is programmable to treat many different medical conditions in small animals.

One of the benefits of laser therapy is that it is noninvasive. There is no need to shave or clip the hair, and the animal can move and walk around during the process. Depending on the condition we are treating, we like to think of the laser as a warm massage with a smooth ball like head gliding over the skin slowly with small amounts of pressure. Treatments can vary in length typically anywhere from 3-8 minutes per site. Each “site” can include an area such as the shoulder, hips, or stifle (knee) and is about the size of a playing card. Treatments are cumulative, but you can see improvement after one session. It is beneficial to do multiple treatments so they add up to a greater improvement over time on your pet.

Christina CVT - Oakview Vet Plover Stevens Point WI
Christina giving a laser treatment to Keana for her hips

As we administer laser therapy to your pet, everyone in the room needs to wear special glasses including your pet to protect their eyes from the red laser itself.

How can my pet benefit from laser therapy?

After just one session, you may notice an improvement in your pets pain level or you may notice a change in mobility of your pet. Maybe they use stairs again or play with a ball that he has not picked up in months. Maybe he would even be able to get up on the couch to snuggle. When we increase the mobility in our pets, we may be able to decrease the amount of medication that is needed for pain and inflammation as well.

Hip X-Ray Canine
Normal ball and socket joints of the hips with smooth surfaces
Hip Dysplasia - Oakview Vet Plover Stevens Point WI
Keana’s Hips – The surfaces of both the balls and the sockets are ragged and uneven

 

There are a variety of medical conditions we can use laser for including but not limited to:

  • Muscle, ligament, or tendon injuries
  • Post-surgical incision sites
  • Soft tissue trauma
  • Spinal pain/disease
  • Ear infections
  • Gingivitis/Tooth extractions
  • Hot spots and open wounds
  • Arthritis/Hip Dysplasia
  • Anal gland infection
Laser Therapy - Oakview Vet Stevens Point Plover WI
Treating ear infections

Many of our laser therapy patients are older and benefit very much from treatments. Some signs of pain to look for if you have a senior pet:
• Abnormal posture during sitting
• Restlessness
• Whining, vocalizing more often
• Limping
• Unable to get up or down
• Difficulties getting upstairs or even into car
• Lack of grooming
• Licking or biting areas on body
• Lack of appetite

It is important to keep an eye on your animals closely so we can treat them sooner rather than later. The sooner we begin, the better chance we have of helping them feel better!

Laser for pain relief and inflammation

Laser Therapy - Oakview Vet Stevens Point Plover WI
Post Surgical Laser (the laser was turned off for this picture– the kitten would normally have a protective cloth over her eyes)

Laser treatments are an excellent way to provide pain relief for many patients. The laser light reduces pain by a process called “vasodialation” (the opening of blood vessels) and also by activation the lymphatic drainage system, thus draining the swollen areas. Reduced swelling then reduces pain. The laser also stimulates nerve cells that block pain signals being transmitted to the brain.

 

The production of endorphins, which are natural pain relievers in the brain, are increased using laser. Here at Oakview Vet, we use laser therapy on just about all of our patients that come in for routine surgeries such as spay or neuter unless contraindicated. Because the laser works directed on affected areas, we can help speed up the healing process, strengthen the muscle and tissue, and of course decrease pain and inflammation associated with the surgical procedure itself.

Laser Therapy - Oakview Vet Stevens Point Plover WISo why laser therapy?
Laser treatment is pain-free and often comforting. As the laser treatment is being performed, your pet may feel a soothing, warm feeling (similar to a warm compress). For many pets laser treatment is very relaxing and they may even take a snooze! As we laser the tissue, areas of pain and inflammation become more comfortable, reducing anxiety and tension. Eventually, your pet will realize they are getting a relaxing massage!

 

written by Christina Brandes, CVT

Christina - Oakview Vet Plover Stevens Point WI

 

Christina graduated from Madison Area Technical College. She joined us in 2016.

She and her fiance David have a baby boy named Kaysen. They also share their home with 2 cats, Moby and Annabelle, a bearded dragon named Leonard, and a gecko named Clyde.

In her spare time, Christina enjoys camping and other outdoor activities.

 

The Fundamentals of Laser Therapy for Pets

What is a laser?

In order to understand laser therapy better this blog will briefly touch on the fundamentals of laser light and what to expect at your appointment. Laser is an acronym that stands for Light Amplification by the Stimulated Emission of Radiation. To create a laser beam there must be a lasing medium such as a solid, gas, semiconductor or liquid that contains atoms and when excited by energy creates light in all directions. The next component in a laser is the excitation mechanism or energy pump which is the source of energy used to excite the medium and lastly the optical resonator which reflects the laser beam through the active medium for amplification.

Light is an electromagnetic wave and the unique properties of laser light are monochromatic (single wavelength), collimated (narrow beam in one direction) and coherent (light waves are in phase). Different wavelengths in the visible spectrum are seen by the eye in different colors however there is also a nonvisible spectrum too. The process the therapeutic laser uses is called Photobiomodulation which is when photons from the laser source are delivered to specific chromophores (organelles which absorb light) or cells in the red and infrared spectrums creating a process called photobiochemical. This method results in biochemical change or response creating a cascade of events within the tissues that result in the reduction of inflammation, edema (fluid in tissue that causes swelling) and pain. Laser therapy can be comparable to photosynthesis in plants since the body receives usable energy that was converted from the laser light.

Different Classes of Laser:

Lasers are classified by the potential of the laser beam to do harm ranging from class I to class IV with three sub categories. This is done by incorporating the energy, wavelength, pulse characteristics and power as the main factors.
Laser Therapy - Oakview Vet Plover Stevens Point WI
Class I: This class has two subsections and both are inherently safe unless items such as compact disk players and laser printers are disassembled.
Class II: The aversion response (blink reflex) typically prevents eye damage unless one stares directly in the beam. A Point of Sale barcode scanner used at your local grocery store would fall into this group.
Class III: This class has 2 subcategories as well and both can potentially be injurious. Grouped in this section are laser pointers and low power lasers under 500 mws.
Class IV: Direct and indirect viewing of the beam can be are designed to deliver laser radiation for the purpose of altering biological tissue to reduce inflammation, pain and increase the healing process.

Laser first appeared in the veterinary practice in the late 1970’s and over the decades the advancements of laser technology has grown right along with it. This therapy can be known as soft laser therapy, cold laser therapy, low power laser therapy, bio-stimulation therapy, therapeutic laser therapy and low-level laser therapy (LLLt) and is used on domestic pets, horses and humans in the medical field.

What to expect at your LLLT appointment:

Laser Machine - Oakview Vet Plover Stevens Point WI

Wheeled in on a cart is a unit called the Companion Laser Therapy categorized as a Class IV laser manufactured by Litecure. The main unit has all the components needed to craft a laser light that then radiates through a fiber optic cable transmitting laser energy to the hand piece which attaches to one of the four probes shown above. There is the large and small contact heads that have a ball design that is meant for deep tissue penetration whereas the non-contact probes are superfical-treatment applicators. Laser therapy is not considered as heat therapy but it can generating a gentle and relaxing warmth from either the pulsing or continuous beam being emitted.

The doctor, veterinary technician or veterinary assistant will start off by greeting our friendly companion in a fear free manner and work with the owner and pet during this non-invasive procedure finding the most comfortable positioning for the patient. To make this a positive experience we recommend bringing in your pets favorite treats such as a Kong, peanut butter, hot dogs, or even a toy. The rooms atmosphere should be relaxing so soothing music is playing and depending on which one of our furry friends are visiting a synthetic pheromone (Adaptil/Feliway) will be diffused in the room for calming and appeasing effects.

doggles 1doggles 2doggles 3

Before the treatment starts everyone in the room including the pet will need proper eye protection. As previously stated, the class 4 laser can potentially cause damage to the eyes with direct or indirect contact from the laser. The eye protection for both the pets and humans have lenses specifically designed for the optical density and wavelengths that the laser emits so your favorite pair of sunglasses may look cool but they won’t offer much protection.

Now that everyone is safely protected, the laser technician will have already calculated the therapeutic dosage and program the unit. Timing and number of treatments vary based on species, condition being treated, hair coat, skin pigmentation, and size of patient. Once situated, the person performing the laser will take the hand piece with the appropriate attachment and then carefully moving it vertically and horizontally over the targeted area with a continuous sweeping motion to get complete coverage.

The procedure can be stopped at any time to reposition and or give the pet a little break. Range of motion exercises may be performed at the same time to enhance treatment. Once the therapeutic dose is met for that area the individual performing the laser treatment will move to next designated area. Once all areas are treated and the laser beam is turned off the patient and everyone in the room are safe to remove their glasses or doggles and go about their day.

Stay tuned for next week to see the advantages of laser therapy and see if your pet would benefit from a few treatments.

Resources:
Definition and Properties of Laser Light

Laser Therapy in Veterinary Medicine

 

written by Amanda Haebig, Veterinary Assistant

Amanda - Oakview Vet Plover Stevens Point WI

 

Amanda was born in Indiana but has lived in Stevens Point most of her life.  She joined the Oakview team in March of 2016 and has quickly become part of the family.  She enjoys Motorcycle riding and Horseback riding when not working. She shares her life with her significant other, Kevin and their Siberian Huskies Storm and Hale.

 

 

 

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