Veterinarians Add Laser Therapy to Arthritis Treatment


But at $250 for six treatments, Dougherty said that he'll continue to pay for Rex's laser treatments to keep him happy and painfree.

Berkenblit said that the treatment does has not shown any adverse effects so far, although a small portion of dogs and cats will not respond as dramatically to the treatment as Rex and others. About 70 percent of the animals show improvement in arthritic pain. Thirty percent do not experience any change.

Vets' Take on Things

Other veterinarians have also been convinced by the buzz surrounding the procedure.

"This is important, exciting stuff," said "Good Morning America's" family doctor for pets Marty Becker. "I'm at the world's largest veterinary meeting in Vegas and seminars on rehab and booths of laser companies are packed."

Most dogs begin showing arthritic symptoms at 6 or 7 years old. While some arthritis can be prevented by maintaining an ideal body weight in one's dog or cat, most dogs will experience some sort of arthritic pain as they grow into old age.

Animal and Human Treatment Collide

"Laser therapy is a very effective modality to speed and direct healing in dogs with painful arthritis, strains and sprains and other injuries or effects of aging," said Dr. Christine Zink, director of the department of molecular and comparative pathobiology at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. "It has been used in humans for a long time and dogs now can reap the benefits, too."

And it's Berkenblit himself who put that idea to the test. After spending days crawling around his house after throwing out his back, he finally thought to make his way to the clinic, where he used the laser device on his own back. "I walked out that door and I thought, 'That's pretty cool,'" he said.

Berkenbilt said that other nurses and technicians often use the device for their personal aches and pains, too.

Some may still wonder how lasers can ward off arthritis and pain, but several research studies provide evidence about the benefits of laser therapy treatment.

Dr. Bradley Frederick, director of doctors at the International Sports Science Center and founder of American Health Lasers, uses high-powered lasers to treat people, even professional athletes, on a wide range of injuries and inflammatory conditions.

"We have seen increases in the rate of production of energy after treatment," said Frederick. "The laser stimulates cellular activity to cells that it hits. The key is hitting the cell to accelerate oxidation."

In 2002, the Food and Drug Administration approved its first trial on laser treatment for cell damage. The double-blind studies from Baylor College of Medicine improved carpal tunnel disease in patients about 70 percent more than in the control group using traditional physical therapy programs.

Another study, published in August 2000 in the Journal of Rheumatology, found that cold laser therapy reduced pain by 70 percent and increased tip-to-palm flexibility by more than 1 centimeter, when compared with those in the placebo group.

And finally, a July 2007 study from Wellman Center for Photomedicine at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston showed that low-level laser therapy was highly effective in reducing swelling in patients with knee-joint arthritis.

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