As a Gen Xer, I cannot think of the word “laser” without hearing the voice of Dr. Evil from the Austin Powers movies. I have yet to figure out how to attach any of my work lasers to a shark, but I most definitely know how I would use them on a shark! If you do not understand that statement, don’t worry, my wife didn’t watch the movies, either, despite me thinking they were hilarious in my youth. In all seriousness, stay with me and I will explain why I believe these tools can be very helpful in most Veterinary practices. I will share my thoughts from the viewpoints of a practice owner, practicing veterinarian, and a client, as well.

Therapy Lasers

 There are several varieties of Veterinary lasers on the market from surgical to therapy, but in this article, we will focus on the use of therapy lasers. I was introduced to therapy lasers nearly two decades ago and that experience stuck with me. At that time, I had several cases where I utilized its “magic,” and that experience was amazing. My biggest problem then was it was very hard to explain the technology to my clients and sell the service. This was cutting-edge technology and not something that was being used in human medicine like it is today. It was hard to explain how shining a light onto your pets’ skin will help them in numerous ways. Truly, though, it is the closest thing that I have to a magical device in my office.

Laser technology has changed through the years, as have our clients and their relationship with their pets. Most clients are very aware of the many different medications that are doled out for pain and inflammation for our beloved pets. They are also very concerned about the long-term effects of the chronic uses of these drugs, as we are, too. Having a therapy laser gives me another weapon in my arsenal to combat both acute and chronic pain and inflammation that is not “just another drug.”

Please do not misunderstand. I continue to utilize several NSAIDs and pain medications within my practice when appropriate, but there are many times when adding a therapy laser session (or more) can make all the difference to the patient, client, and overall experience. If you look around in the world of human medicine, therapy and “red light” therapy are becoming more commonplace, especially in the world of pain management and sports medicine.

‘Seeing the Light’

How does this work, you might be asking? Well, I will break it down as I would to a client. The laser therapy unit utilizes frequencies in light, some observable and some not, to penetrate the skin, muscle, and other tissues to stimulate and recruit immune cells, decrease inflammation, promote healing within the tissues, and ignite tissue healing. If you prefer a more scientific explanation, there are numerous sources to read. They will all explain photobiomodulation and the utilization of the visible light spectrum (400-700 nm) and the non-visible light spectrum (700-1,100 nm). This is always a very enlightening read (see what I did there), but at the end of the day, we are penetrating tissue with light to ignite the body’s own abilities and recruiting the arsenal within our patients for quicker healing.

In the world of therapy lasers, there are several brands available to the Veterinary community, but at the end of the day, there are three big players in this market. To date, I have worked within practices that have had two of the three. I own one brand currently and I have worked with the other. Cutting Edge, Companion, and Summus all make several models for Veterinary medicine, and each have very good products. There are options and models that any practice could find uses for, and depending upon your practice volume and progressiveness, some models will work better than the others. This can quickly turn into a “Coke vs Pepsi” argument, so I would recommend evaluating which one fits the flow of your practice the best.

I have only two regrets related to the purchase of my laser therapy unit. First, I should have purchased it sooner, and second, I should recommend it earlier with each client who chooses it. At the end of the day, I believe that we should educate our clients on all the possible options to heal their pets as quickly as possible. In a lot of these cases, there will be optional treatments and non-optional treatments in my office. These optional treatments should not be instantly applied to a client’s bill. Knowledge of these options can be very powerful and allows the client to know about services that could speed up the healing times of the patient. It also gives them the option to utilize those services now or in the future.

In my practice, there are several surgical and non-surgical treatments I provide where a therapy session or group of therapy sessions are a part of the treatment protocol, period. There are also times where we offer it as an option or an addendum to initial treatments. The clients are made aware of the possibilities that can be utilized or added along the way. I have found this approach to be the best for my clients and recommend that you evaluate what best works for your clients and Veterinary team.

Are therapy lasers necessary or ideal for every Veterinary practice or practicing veterinarian? No, probably not. However, there are times that one can make all the difference to your patients, your clients, and to the health of a practice. There are many practices that will not have the volume needed to consider a therapeutic laser and have no plans to widen their patient scope to make one an asset.

In a world where we are constantly evaluating best medical practices and competing more and more with online pharmacies, therapy lasers offer the possibility to help patients without “just another medication,” while also keeping the resulting revenue inside our practice’s walls. A win-win for everyone. Could one of these therapy lasers help in your practice? Maybe. Could a therapy laser help promote and speed up healing for your patients? Yes, I guarantee it. I have seen too many amazing circumstances to deny that conclusion anymore.

So, here is my advice. Take time to evaluate the multiple types of lasers available on the market. Consider all the many ways that they can be utilized. Take note as to how it could expand certain services for your practice and speed up your patients’ healing times.

Who knows . . . maybe you do have a little Dr. Evil in you after all!