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For the love of your pet: Laser therapy helps treat bulging discs, pinched nerves

By By John Beck
July 11, 2013 at 2:11 a.m.


My dachshund jumped off the bed like he always does, but this time, he started dragging one of his hind legs. I took him to the vet, and they put him on some steroids, suggested cage rest and also laser therapy. What is laser therapy, and how would that be helpful?

Jumping on and off furniture and high perches has caused many dogs to limp through my door. Dogs with long spines (i.e. dachshunds, Shih Tzu, Pekingese) are more prone to these types of injuries. The repetitive pressure applied to the discs between the vertebrae can really cause deterioration in their cushioning ability.

Bulging discs and pinched nerves can cause a dog to lose full function of his/her rear legs. Some patients will just have a slight deficient such as limping or dragging one's foot or leg. Veterinary specialists can perform back surgery to repair bulging discs, but many owners cannot afford this costly operation.

Another alternative is to treat with steroids to control inflammation and pain. Cage rest is very important, as well, to allow time for the swelling to dissipate and allow the disc to return to its normal positioning.

Within the last couple of years, laser therapy has also joined in the league of treatment options. It can be used to treat a wide variety of problems by helping in decreasing healing time and reducing swelling and inflammation at the problem site.

By using different wave lengths of light (laser emissions), you can stimulate cell regeneration, reduce scar tissue, decrease the number of inflammatory agents that promote pain and reduce edema (fluid accumulation).

The laser is not heat emitting. A small amount of heat is produced, but that is not the source of treatment. The light causes a photochemical reaction in the cells, producing all of the above listed effects. It is an easy treatment for the patient.

All one has to do is sit or lay still while the laser-emitting wand is rubbed over the area in need of treatment. Working in a back and forth motion, the laser is able to penetrate the skin and treat the underlying tissue in need.

For a back problem, it is usually recommended that you go every day or every other day for five or so treatments and then begin to taper off, eventually using it as needed. If the treatment is for a chronic condition like arthritis, therapists usually suggest the initial starting set followed by a twice-a-month treatment thereafter.

Laser therapy can be extremely beneficial when combined with traditional treatments and/or oral medications. It is typically not used as a singular treatment source but as a "cherry on top" to speed healing time and lessen pain.

Dr. John Beck has a veterinary practice at Hillcrest Animal Hospital in Victoria. Submit questions to Dr. Beck at drjohnbeck@hotmail.com.

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