Bill Dougherty's trusty 135-pound German shepherd, Rex, has suffered from a limp and joint pain for the past two years. This man's best friend, 70 in dog years, 10 in people years, needed treatment for his arthritic pain. But rather than opting for traditional pills or surgery, Dougherty tried a new, seemingly magical, laser therapy that the local veterinary clinic, Village Animal Clinic in North Palm Beach, Fla., was offering to arthritic dog and cats.
"Rex was always a very active dog, but he started exhibiting some problems with his shoulders," said Dougherty, who owns three other dogs. "He probably has about two years left, and we didn't want to take out six months of his life for surgery, so we tried this."
Dougherty said that Rex's limp and overall activity and happiness improved almost immediately after the first laser treatment.
"We used to say that Rex was like the old man on the hill," said Dougherty. "He'd point out the distraction and then the younger ones would go after it. But now, he's back and a part of the gang."
Mike Berkenblit, owner of Village Animal Clinic and lead veterinarian on site, performed the laser therapeutic procedure on Rex, and many other animals. Other pet owners have seen similar dramatic improvements in their dogs and cats who underwent the treatment.
The cold laser therapy is a noninvasive procedure that uses light to stimulate cells and increase blood circulation. At the correct laser wavelength, pain signals are reduced and nerve sensitivity decreases. The procedure also releases endorphins, or natural painkillers, but it is not recommended for animals that have cancer because the device can stimulate blood flow to cancer cells.
The procedure is based on the idea that light is absorbed into the cells. The process, known as photo-biotherapy, stimulates protein synthesis and cell metabolism, which improves cell health and functionality.
The therapy can take as little as eight to 10 minutes on a small dog or cat, or about a half hour for bigger dogs with more arthritic areas. And to create the appropriate atmosphere, Berkenblit and his staff work to make the dog as comfortable as possible. The animal reclines in a room, the lights are turned down low and soothing music plays in the background.
"We always say that Rex is going to the spa when he goes to get his laser treatment," said Dougherty. "He used to hate going to the vet, but now he loves it. It's where he can go to relax and listen to Beyonce."
Hey, what dog wouldn't love a little soothing Beyonce to set the mood?
This isn't the first time that Berkenblit has put laser treatment to the test. Eight years ago, Berkenblit tried a laser procedure on his own yellow Lab, Woody, but he was unimpressed with the results on his beloved dog.
But about a year ago, he learned of new and improved laser procedures and was convinced to try again.
"I was very skeptical about the treatment at first," said Berkenbilt. "But technology has rocketed ahead and evolved. Now, almost immediately after treatment, people call and say that their animal is doing stuff that he hasn't done in years. It's been a lifesaver for some pets."
Dougherty was so impressed by the results in Rex that he looked into buying a laser device for personal use on his dogs. But the $30,000 price tag hit the bank a bit too hard.