By Dr. Elizabeth Jobe, DVM, CCRT, CVMA

The Class IV Therapeutic laser at PAWS Veterinary Center is a very versatile tool and is not only utilized in the rehabilitation department but also by the general practitioners for a variety of cases. The Cutting Edge laser has a long list of treatment indications, and we can let you know if your pet is a candidate. Some of the common uses are for pain management and anti-inflammatory effects, skin and ear infections, arthritic joints, post-operative incision healing, swelling/edema reduction, nerve stimulation, and acupuncture point stimulation. The treatments are quick (5-15 minutes) and are painless. Most animals really enjoy these sessions, completely relax, and love coming back for more because it makes them feel better. For example, we use our laser quite often to treat older dogs with chronic arthritis to reduce the amount of oral pain medications needed.

There are some differences in the various types of laser therapy. Therapeutic lasers do not achieve energy ranges such as surgical cutting lasers, and this laser differs from ‘low level lasers’ or ‘cold lasers’ (Class III b lasers) in that it penetrates deeper into the affected tissue due to its longer wavelength of light and has broader tissue coverage. Class IV therapeutic lasers treat tissue through photobiostimulation, which is a process that uses light to stimulate components in cells to create chemical energy increasing the production of ATP, DNA, and oxygen for enhanced cell metabolism.

Class IV laser therapy has numerous advantages for our patients. The laser blocks pain in nerve fibers and increases endorphin release, which is the feel-good hormone. It also improves blood flow and new vessel formation in tissues, breaks down the damaging free radicals in the tissue, increases metabolic activity for healing and speeds all phases of wound healing. Post-operatively, it is utilized for reducing swelling and edema in tissue while also speeding healing of the incision and increasing its strength. A very unique property of the laser is that it reduces bacterial growth and is one of the few modalities that can be used at an infection site.

At PAWS Veterinary Center, our Class IV therapeutic laser is specific to animals, and the settings take into account your animal’s hair color, skin color, weight, and treatment site location to calculate the appropriate dose of energy per treatment. Damage can occur if the laser light shines directly into your eyes, so everyone in the room, including our pets, get to wear protective eyewear. A great case example is a Labrador Retriever who has been working with our rehabilitation department for weight loss, strengthening, and arthritis management. She receives laser therapy on her knees and shoulders once weekly. This has allowed us to decrease her oral anti-inflammatory and pain medications while reducing the swelling and excessive joint fluid in her knees. Because she is more comfortable, she is able to complete her physical therapy in less pain and work harder to build muscle strength. We are excited to have the therapeutic laser as an additional cutting-edge modality to offer our pets and clients at PAWS!