Author Topic: Laser therapy for arthritic dog - legit treatment or expensive "snake oil"?  (Read 208 times)

Miss Piggy

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Question for any veterinarians out there or mustachians who have tried it--is laser therapy a legitimate treatment for an arthritic dog?

My dog, let's call him Frank, is 9 years old and weighs 13 pounds.

He had a brief (2 days?) episode of partial paralysis of his back legs about a year ago, but the day we took him to the specialist (about day 2), he no longer showed symptoms, so the specialist didn't want to do extensive testing. Now, his tail is generally down (it used to be up all the time), he doesn't jump up on his favorite chair anymore, and he doesn't walk up stairs. He still gets excited like a puppy when it's time for a walk or for food.

Frank's been on Rimadyl for about 4 months, and I can't tell whether it's making a difference.

Frank is getting his teeth cleaned in a couple of weeks, and I asked about getting an x-ray of his back/hips while he's sedated to see if we can find out what the issue is. Maybe it's arthritis, maybe it's something else. Veterinarian didn't strongly encourage the x-ray, but said it would be useful IF we decide to do laser therapy or acupuncture. The x-ray will be $250ish (I thought that was a typo, but it's not)...laser therapy would be significantly more than that for several treatments.

I've already ruled out acupuncture...just not a believer. But I'm wondering about the legitimacy of laser therapy. Is it worth considering?

I love this dog, and we're FI, so spending some money to lessen or eliminate pain for him is not out of the question. That said, I don't want to throw away money on something that has very little chance of making a difference.

Any insights you can share?

PBandJelli

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I'm not a vet, but I have had a similar experience.  Our old (ancient!) dalmatian had really bad arthritis.  Around year 16, we decided to start laser therapy.  He'd given us so many good years, that we were ready to try anything to make him feel comfortable - knowing that at 16 he wouldn't survive much longer.  Well, just a week or two after starting treatments, he seemed to be in far less discomfort - able to more easily sit and lay down.  (Simultaneously, we started giving him some massages -- but we're not trained.)  He lived about two years longer, and got laser therapy for a few weeks every quarter.  It really seemed to help him. 

My advice: try it and see what happens.  If you don't notice a difference after a 2-3 weeks, just reevaluate.

startingsmall

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Vet here.

I have no personal experience with lasers, having never worked in a clinic that had one, but I've heard a lot of great stories... both from clients who've come from vets that had laser therapy and from vets who've had great success using lasers on their patients (and, in many cases, on themselves). While I don't perform acupuncture myself, I currently work with a doctor who does and I've also seen some amazing results in his patients, especially those with disk disease.

I don't understand the magic behind either and they may both just be snake oil, but they seem to be effective somehow.

Miss Piggy

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Thank you for the replies so far. They're very helpful!

katscratch

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I've heard good things about laser for dogs but haven't seen it firsthand, and have seen acupuncture success in dogs and horses. There's no placebo effect in dogs ;)

I had laser therapy myself after an ulnar nerve injury some years ago. I have no idea if it helped significantly compared to not having the treatment, but I do remember having more days in a row without pain once I started the therapy.

That X-ray price sounds normal to me, btw.
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Miss Piggy

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Thanks for the info, katscratch.

I guess I was thinking the x-ray would be less expensive simply because he'll already be sedated because of the teeth cleaning. No such luck.

IrishMustacian

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I've heard good things about laser for dogs but haven't seen it firsthand, and have seen acupuncture success in dogs and horses. There's no placebo effect in dogs ;)

I hope I don't come across as confrontational by saying this, but I don't really buy this kind of reasoning. I wonder if you agree with the following: although the dogs themselves are unlikely to experience placebo (i.e. feel better because they expect a treatment to work) a human who is trying to ascertain the effectiveness of treatment on a dog can have their judgement swayed by their knowledge that the treatment was performed. Do you agree?