Can veterinary laser treatment help dogs with chronic joint conditions like arthritis?
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Can veterinary laser treatment help dogs with chronic joint conditions like arthritis?

Dogs
Health & Safety

Arthritis is a condition that many dogs develop as they reach old age, and it is one that is increasingly more likely to develop as the years go by. Keeping an arthritic dog comfortable can be a challenge, as arthritis cannot be reversed or cured, and a range of different approaches can be used for this, often with two or more used in combination.

As well as medications to ease pain and inflammation, there is hydrotherapy, physiotherapy, maintaining movement as far as possible, and alternative therapies like acupuncture may be supported by some vets too, just for starters.

What treatment is most effective for any given dog can be quite variable, and this may need to be reassessed and changed as time goes on and the condition progresses. However, there is a relatively new treatment for arthritis in dogs that many general practice veterinary clinics in the UK are beginning to offer too, and which you might not be aware of; and this is laser therapy.

If your vet has suggested laser therapy for arthritis in dogs or you’ve heard of laser treatments for canine arthritis and wonder if this is something that could help your own pet, this article will provide some basic information on what it is, how it works, and whether laser can help arthritic dogs. Read on to learn more.

What is laser therapy for dogs?

Laser therapy is delivered with a small, hand-held device that’s about the size of a phone, and when activated it delivers infrared photons deep into the body’s cells, improving their functions and circulation.

It’s not at all painful, is non-invasive, and won’t interfere with or affect any other treatments or medications the dog takes either.

The laser is targeted at the problem area – such as the joints affected by arthritis – and can help to ease pain and reduce swelling, both of which improve the dog’s comfort and mobility, with near-immediate results.

Delivering each treatment is quick, with a session usually taking well under ten minutes. Sessions in clinics that offer the service may be delivered by a vet or more commonly, a qualified and registered veterinary nurse (RVN) who has been specially trained in the laser’s safe and effective use.

Do dogs feel the laser treatment?

Laser treatment for arthritis in dogs is totally painless, and all the treated dog will feel is a gentle warmth, if that. Vets and nurses trained to deliver laser treatments have the use of the laser demonstrated on themselves as part of their training, and so can say with certainty what it is like for your dog as they have felt it themselves!

The sensation is not at all unpleasant and other than dogs who find the clinic environment itself stressful, most actively enjoy it and find it quite relaxing; many dogs fall asleep!

How fast do laser treatments work for dogs?

Not all dogs with arthritis will be viable candidates for laser treatment, and it should not be seen as a universal treatment or in any way a cure. However, for dogs that are deemed to be good candidates for treatment, most show improvement after the first session, with results sometimes being immediate.

Generally a course of treatments over a course of a few weeks is recommended to give your dog the full benefit of the laser, followed after that by maintenance top-up treatments at a less regular frequency to maintain the benefits.

However once more, laser treatment for arthritis in dogs is not a cure; it cannot reverse the condition and the effects of treatment do fade over time without repeat treatments.

How much does laser treatment for arthritis in dogs cost?

The cost will vary from clinic to clinic, and will of course depend too on how many treatments your dog needs. Most clinics will be able to advise you of a set cost per treatment or treatment package.

However, this is generally viewed as a fairly cost effective treatment for arthritis in dogs when compared to the cost of surgery and/or ongoing prescriptions of anti-inflammatory medications; although sometimes laser will be recommended alongside of other treatment methods, rather than instead of them.

Does pet insurance cover laser treatment for arthritis in dogs?

This depends as always on the exact terms and conditions and coverage of your policy; but other than bare bones policies and those that cover accidents only (rather than illnesses and health conditions) laser will generally covered if this is the treatment recommended by your vet.

This is because it is classed as a medical treatment rather than a complimentary therapy, the latter of which includes things like homeopathy and acupuncture, and which are not generally covered by most policies unless specified.

Can laser treatment improve other canine health conditions too?

Laser treatments can also be used for quite a wide range of things, including helping dogs to recover faster after surgery in some cases too.

If your clinic offers laser treatments or there’s a clinic in your area that does, they will be able to talk you through the various applications and options.

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