When my Dachshund Gretel injured her back, and was diagnosed with Intervertebral Disk Disease (IVDD), I wanted to get her on the road to healing as fast as I could.
During our first visit with the rehab vet, I asked her about absolutely every treatment I knew existed to potentially help Dachshunds with back problems.
I went armed with a list of about 10 things and made the vet explain every single one to me. One of the items at the top of my list was cold laser.
A Dachshund that I walk has back issues. His Mom mentioned that she takes him in for cold laser therapy treatments and it’s really helped.
When I mentioned this alternative therapy, Gretel’s rehab veterinarian wholeheartedly endorsed it.
We started treatments only a few days after her injury and I’m convinced that it was key in her recovery.
In my Dachshund’s case, her injury was mild (Stage 2 IVDD). She didn’t have as far to recover as Dachshunds who become paralyzed.
However, she still had pain, nerve damage, and reduced feeling in her back legs like most other Dachshunds with IVDD no matter what stage they are in.
After a year of rehab therapy, I can happily report that Gretel is back to her old self – the happy, active hiker she was before the injury.
However, because IVDD is a disease, there is a chance that Gretel’s spine will fail again.
I don’t think I need to treat her like glass but I do need to watch her for any signs of re-injury and do what I can to prevent or minimize any future episodes.
Part of my prevention plan includes core strengthening and balance exercises. My plan also involves keeping any swelling to a minimum.
I do this trough a combination of anti-inflammatories (my vet signed off on this), and doing cold laser treatments at home, if there are any signs of trouble.
What is Cold Laser Therapy?
“Laser therapy is an FDA-cleared modality that reduces inflammation and that results in pain reduction. Laser therapy is effective in treating acute pain, chronic conditions, and post-operative pain.” – Carol, Fidose of Reality, from Diary of a Dog Undergoing Laser Treatment.
Cold laser, also known as low-level laser therapy (LLLT), is a noninvasive procedure that uses visible and near infrared (NIR) light to stimulate cell regeneration and increase blood circulation.
Overall cellular function is increased, allowing for rapid absorption of nutrients, elimination of wastes, growth of new cells and nerves.
Often, when people think of laser, they think of the burning rays like in movies. Or maybe they’ve heard of lasers being used for surgery to cut tissue.
These could be called “hot lasers”.
However, the wavelength (typically 600-950 nanometers (nm) depending on the condition being treated) and power of cold lasers is such that it doesn’t cause tissue warming.
It will not burn your dog’s skin.
Can Cold Laser Treatments Help My Dachshund?
“Dogs that receive low-level laser treatment after initial surgery [for IVDD] are walking a full week earlier than patients that do not receive the treatment,” said Dr. Tom Schubert, a professor of small animal neurology at UF’s College of Veterinary Medicine (source).
Cold laser has only been used in the United States since 2002 but it’s been used widely in Europe and Asia for a long time.
There are studies showing the benefits of cold laser for people but there are few studies of it’s use on animals.
Of those, some say it is beneficial and others say it doesn’t really do anything.
Because of this, it’s still considered “fringe”, or alternative, therapy among many veterinarians.
It’s been gaining some mainstream acceptance though as more and more vets are seeing results.
Cold laser can be helpful for Dachshunds trying to avoid surgery (using conservative treatment), dogs recovering from surgery, or active dogs that compete in sports.
Potential benefits of cold laser therapy for Doxies include:
- Alleviating chronic or acute pain
- Reducing inflammation
- Reducing swelling
- Increasing circulation
- Speeding up healing and recovery
- Releasing endorphins, the body’s natural pain reliever
Common injuries that cold laser therapy is used to treat in dogs are:
- Joint injuries
- Ligament or tendon injuries
- Muscle sprains or strains
- Skin lesions or abrasions
- Post-trauma wounds
- Post-surgical incisions
- Musculoskeletal diseases (like IVDD)
- Nerve injury
As I said, the potential benefits aren’t universally accepted among veterinarians. Some are just generally skeptical because they think it’s the latest gimmick from the holistic veterinary community.
However, Laser therapy has been used human medicine for a long time and produced results. It’s just now being applied to animal cases though so it seems “new”.
Almost every pet parent I hear from that has tried cold laser said they thought it made an important difference for their dog.
For more check out the 10 common criticisms of cold laser therapy and read the evidence-based responses.
Where Can I Get Laser Treatment for My Dachshund and How Much Will It Cost?
There are really only two options of you want to try cold laser therapy for your Dachshund
- Go to a veterinarian
- Rent or buy a laser for home use
At the Vet
Gretel’s initial treatments were performed at her rehab veterinarians’s office.
The cold laser at a veterinarian’s office is often higher-powered that what you can purchase for home use.
You can also be sure it’s done right because the person administering the treatments has been trained to do so.
Because a veterinarian’s laser unit can be expensive ($10,000 or more), and you are paying a veterinarian for their time, treatments are not cheap.
Gretel received treatments 2 times per week in the beginning. I was told she needed it at least once a week to be effective. If I could have afforded it, she could have had 3.
Treatments at my vet are about $50 each. That meant I paid $100 per week, or $400 a month, for her treatments.
If I had just done one a week then it would have been $200 for the month. If I had done all 3, it would have been $600.
So, how much does cold laser treatments for your dog cost? Initially, somewhere between $200 – $600 a month.
Once a dog is past the initial treatment period – which varies but is typically 1-2 months – and results are achieved, they can go into a maintenance routine.
This maintenance routine will be determined by the veterinarian but is usually 1 treatment every 2-4 weeks, or approximately $100-$300 for 3 months.
Another option, if you are convinced that the laser will work for your dog, is to rent or purchase a laser for home use.
There are definitely some issues with going this route but there is also the potential advantage of lower cost (especially if you also plan to use it on yourself), convenience, and comfort for your pet.
Having a laser you can use at home on your dog can save you time driving back and forth to the vet and in the waiting room.
Even if your vet is close, it will probably save you 1 hour per treatment.
If you travel a lot like us, you may not even have access to a vet that will provide treatments to your pet on the road.
It’s also more convenient for a pet who tends to get stressed at the vet (or in the car). You can give them treatments in the comfort of your own home is less than 30 minutes (most home treatments take 5-15 minutes).
It can also end up being cheaper.
Let’s say I want to give Gretel regular maintenance laser treatments year round. If I give them to her every 2 weeks, at $50 each, that’s $1,300 a year.
Since her condition is chronic, I will want to do this for the rest of her life. Assuming she lives at least another 10 years, that would cost me $13,000 – way more than what I paid for our own cold laser device.
Besides the convenience of being able to give my Dachshund treatments when we travel, buying one will save me money in the long run.
I plan to use it for Chester (and myself) too so it will actually pay for itself in half the time.
How Do I Choose the Best Pet Laser for My Dog?
The primary drawback is that the information out there about cold lasers for home use is confusing.
I did find a lot of great information online but, although I have a science degree, it was still really hard to wrap my head around. There is a lot to understand.
To further complicate matters, there are companies out there who are just trying to make a quick buck off of this trend. Everyone will tell you why their laser is better than the others and it all sounds pretty convincing.
If you are going to buy a laser for home use, you will have to do a ton of research and hope you’re getting the right one.
For a synopsis of the information I found, read my Research Article on Buying a Cold Laser for Your Dog
Are There Any Drawbacks to Using a Cold Laser for Your Dachshund at Home?
While buying a cold laser to use on your Dahcshund at home has it benefits, there are a few drawbacks too.
First, even the best cold lasers for home use are usually not as powerful as the one your veterinarian has.
A less powerful laser is not necessarily less effective though, it just requires a longer treatment time in order to be.
So, for example, one 5-minute session a week at your vet may be fine but you may need to give your Dachshund 3 treatments a week at home to achieve the same results. No big deal, right?
Another drawback is that you have to know how to use the laser correctly.
If the laser only has one setting, then this is easy. But if your laser has 3 different settings like mine, you may need to read the instruction manual a few times or email the company to ask.
You also need to make sure you are applying it to the specific area that needs treatment. Since many muscle and joint injuries are under the skin, they are not easily seen.
To successfully treat the area of concern, you need to make sure the laser is actually reaching that area.
While you’ll probably be fine to sweep the laser back and forth over the general area during treatment, you may have to visit your vet once or twice after purchasing the laser so they can show exactly where to apply the treatment.
Which Pet Cold Laser Do You Recommend for Home Use?
I purchased the My Pet Laser by Multi Radiance Medical.
After all my research, it appeared to be the closest thing to my veterinarians laser I could get.
Because I bought it through Dr. Youkey DVM, I also receive ongoing support from her.
Note: If you want to purchase the My Pet Laser, contact Dr. Youkey at Laserriffic.com anduse the code LONGBACKS to get $125 off of the retail price of the laser.
I will be frank though: You pay for quality and this laser is not cheap.
If you need something that is less expensive, try the LumaSoothe Pet Light Therapy Unit (this is an Amazon affiliate link so I may earn a commission if you purchase).
Although this laser is more affordable for some, it also requires at least three times the treatment time to potentially achieve a similar result as with the My Pet Laser.
Personally, I haven’t tried it myself so I am skeptical but it is recommended in one of my Dachshund Facebook groups about back issues. People who have used it in that group claim it works.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is, I think cold laser does have potential to help a Dachshund heal from a back injury during conservative treatment or back surgery.
Some studies have shown it to be effective in dogs but there have been many others that show it’s effectiveness in humans and horses.
Many veterinarians are now convinced that it works and offer the service in their clinic.
When I wrote about Gretel’s IVDD diagnosis, a couple of dozen people at least said that they tried laser for their dog and felt that it made a significant difference.
It’s not guaranteed to work though. The only real way one would know is to try it and see.
Because the treatments are not cheap, and often many are needed to see a difference, deciding to try it or not is a personal judgement call you have to make.
Since cold Laser therapy offers a non-intrusive option to acupuncture and surgery, and provides a non-addicting treatment that eliminates the complications of long-term drug treatment programs (side effects), it’s worth taking a chance for some people.
Have you used cold laser therapy for your dog? What did you think?