Laser therapy stimulates animal health

Staff writer

Riley is a happy little dog. He licks and wiggles, and seems to smile with joy when taking his turn on veterinarian Amber Toews’ laser therapy table at the Hillsboro Animal Clinic.

“Riley wasn’t always this happy,” Toews said. “He used to have back problems and ear problems. He had a chronic ear infection, probably caused by allergies, but he was miserable.”

Toews used cold laser therapy to stimulate the little dachshund’s own bodily defense system to awaken, come to the site of the problem, and create an immune system response.

“The dog doesn’t actually feel anything,” Toews said. “It might get just a little warm in the area where I am passing the laser over, but they don’t seem to mind it at all.”

Toews said laser therapy in animals was not something she learned about in veterinary school at Kansas State University. Rather, she was grateful to get on-the-job training from Norman Galle, DVM and owner of the Hillsboro Animal Clinic. She has worked at the clinic since Sept. 2011.

“I’m guessing that not a lot of rural clinics offer this technology,” she said. “Laser therapy for animals is becoming more mainstream in large population areas, but Dr. Galle has always been very quick to put technological advances into practice.”

While the actual plan of treatment is different for every dog, cat, or even goats, sheep, cows and horses, that might benefit from laser therapy treatment, Toews said there is an induction phase, followed by prescribed sessions.

“We follow certain standards, but tailor it to fit each animal’s needs,” she said. “With Riley, we weren’t sure if the laser would help his ear problems, so we did a test phase where I treated one ear, but not the other. Then we compared results, monitoring how he acted and how his owner thought he felt. Pretty quickly we started treating both ears because there was a noticeable difference.”

Toews said when Riley first came to her, he had trouble walking and moving because of back trouble. He now jumps and wiggles like a young pup. He also spent a lot of time scratching his ears, whining, and shaking his head.

“When I examined him, I noticed a lot of dirt and debris in his ears,” she said. “Some owners of dogs with ear problems will also notice a foul smell.”

During Riley’s induction phase, his owner brought him in every other day for a week. After that, he came in once a week for a month.

“The actual laser therapy doesn’t take long at all,” Toews said. “I just pass the wand over the area a few times for a few minutes, and that’s all. The body is stimulated to do the actual healing.”

Toews said she wears protective eye-gear when using the laser wand. She also is careful to keep the beam from crossing the treated animal’s eyes or interfering with any known cancerous areas.

“We have to be careful because if there are cancerous cells, it could stimulate growth in that area too,” Toews said. “For the most part, it is a very safe procedure, and animals heal very quickly from it.”

Toews said she used laser therapy in spay and neuter jobs on cats and dogs, and in declawing procedures, because the treated animals healed quicker than from traditional methods.

“Using laser therapy actually takes a little longer for the declawing surgery,” she said. “But I won’t do it any other way because the cats heal so much faster. They are just miserable for days after a regular declaw, but with laser therapy they are using normal litter and walking around the first day.”

Toews said vets at Hillsboro Animal Clinic also used a surgical laser on cattle and other large animals.

“It’s a different wand than the cold laser therapy we use on the small animals, but it follows the same concept,” she said. “We use the laser to cut tissue, skin, remove tumors or cancer. There is just so much less inflammation, less pain, with laser surgery that they heal much faster.”

Toews said she thought the clinic’s laser therapy also worked on humans, and likely was the same type of treatment used on athletes.

“I tried it once on myself,” she said. “I don’t know if it was just in my head, but it really worked. I noticed a significant relief of pain.”

For now, Riley is the best indicator of laser therapy success in animals. Judging by his sparkling eyes, fast-moving tongue, and wiggly body, all systems are a go and laser-therapy has accomplished a significant amount of pain relief and healing for the little dachshund.

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