by Angelia Oliverei, LVT

An overview of Laser Therapy in Small Animal Medicine

Laser therapy has recently become a popular therapeutic modality in both veterinary  and human medicine.  Laser therapy has been utilized for pain management since the 1970’s. But what is laser therapy?  

What is Laser Therapy?

Let’s start with the acronym “L.A.S.E.R.” which stands for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. Laser therapy is a treatment modality that uses variable wavelengths of light, which are absorbed into the body’s cells. Once the light energy is within the cell, a chemical reaction will occur called photobiomodulation.  “Photobiomodulation” (photo=light, bio=cell, modulation=change) increases the production of ATP, which is the energy form that cells need to repair or divide itself.  Through this process, the body can accelerate its healing time naturally.

Laser as a Therapy Tool

Laser therapy is non-invasive, and can be used as an alternative therapy, or in conjunction, with other treatments for a variety of conditions and disease processes.  However, not all lasers are the same. There are several  laser classes which are categorized by the power level of each type.  Class IIIb and class IV lasers are the most commonly used medical types of lasers.  In rehabilitation, we use laser therapy to treat acute pain, post-operative discomfort, inflammation, neurological conditions, chronic conditions, soft tissue injuries, sore muscles, and any type of discomfort or pain.


Laser therapy is administered through a hand piece that admits a red light.  This red light is NOT the laser (which is invisible to our visual spectrum), but the color indicator shows us where the laser is being directed.  Proper eye protection should be worn at all times by the operator and anyone in close proximity.  The light energy that the laser therapy gives off provides a warm soothing feeling to the affected area of treatment.  Many of our patients relax during their sessions, like we would if we were getting a massage.  Some of our patients even fall asleep!

In conclusion…

Laser therapy is beneficial in a variety of conditions and disease process and have no significant side effects compared to pharmaceutical treatment alone.  There are some conditions in which laser therapy should not be used and for that reason, it should only be used by medical staff trained in laser use.