Can Cold Laser Therapy Benefit My Dachshund?
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 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?
About the Author
Hi, I’m Jessica. I’ve been studying the Dachshund breed since 2007, owned 3 of my own, and shared in the lives of thousands of others through their owner’s stories. When I’m not sharing what I know on this blog, you can find me hiking, camping, and traveling with my adventurous wiener dogs.
My guy with the chronic iliopsoas injury gets regular laser. I think it helps him, though it’s not dramatic. It may just help me to feel like I’m doing something for him! But I am grateful to have the option.
I admit that I wasn’t sure it was helping at first either. She did seem to have a little extra pep in her step after though. When I rented the laser, I also used it on my plantar fasciitis (an off-label use since it’s intended for animals but it’s not unsafe to do so) and my feet actually did start to feel better. That helped confirm that it must be working for her.
We have clients that use cold laser and love it. Have you tried sports massage? It will complement the laser therapy and also help prevent muscle imbalance leading and future injury.
Not sports massage but I massage and stretch Gretel at home myself. My holistic veterinarian showed me how.
I’m glad the cold laser treatments helped Gretel. I had zero idea you could buy one for use at home.
Yeah. The problem is that “everyone” will try and sell you one. They’ll all promise results – whether it be for beauty of health purposes – but not all are actually effective. I’ve been doing a ton of research and I am STILL half confused. Ha, ha.
been doing this for many yrs on all of my dogs. helps them heal faster. also do acupuncture, and my vet now does adjustments. she is a homeopathic vet. i also have an assisi loop that i use at home. i am trying to get my tens unit to work but it does not stick to their hair very well.
Sounds like your pups are very well taken care of 🙂 We also have an Assisi Loop.
I like that you thought to treat your dog with cold laser therapy to help with her back pain. I have never thought to do that, but I’ll have to keep that in mind. I have an older dog that suffers from acute arthritis, cold laser therapy might be a good option for us to try with him.
Thank you so much for posting this. I never knew there was laser therapy for dogs, this is something I am definitely going to look into for our older girl Hammy! Her arthritis seems to be flaring up more easily lately and I’ve been looking into different options.
Has anybody ever had any no negative effects on their dog my dog seems to be work walking worse
I’ve never heard of negative affects from cold laser. At worst, people may note that they didn’t notice a difference. If you dog is walking worse then their condition might be worsening. I would definitely consult with your vet.
My dog had her first laser treatment yesterday for IVDD. Prior to the treatment she was able to stand and even take a few steps on her own. Immediately after the treatment she couldn’t even stand for me to put her diaper on. It’s been about 36 hours and she hasn’t gained any strength back. We are going back to the vet tomorrow for a recheck and possibly another treatment. I’m really worried about her though because all of the progress she made was wiped away after the laser treatment.
Hi Carly. Sorry to hear your pup has a setback. I’m sure that is really frustrating. Hopefully your vet has some answers. I started Gretel on laser treatment about 10 days post injury and there was nothing but improvement from there. I will say though that I have had cold laser myself for several different things and I always feel like the area is a little more irritated after the first or second treatment before it gets better. It does sound very unusual to me that she is still weak 36 hours later though. I’m wondering if the setback was just coincidental and that her condition has worsened. I sure hope not! Keep me posted.
Hi, I been reading about and spoke to many who use cold laser and massage. I have not tried this on my old girl aged 13 she had injured both her rear cruciate, at aged 9 right then 7-8 months later the left leg. During this time after costly operations, physio. nothing prepared me for the arthritis setting into her joints after her operations. My poor baby mobility declined rapidly. I found her weight gain due to poor mobility due to pain was a hard road to help with her muscles and joint pain, tried hydrotherapy this helped, bought support brace, that helped, including myself. for her and I. It was in December last she fell quite unwell with vestibular disease, chronic infection mainly in her left ear, this caused considerable setbacks with her mobility, pain increased, till the point she had to be hospitalised, I wasn’t able to keep up with the sleepless nights of her restlessness and fear that she was going to die.. her breathing was heavier as days followed. I believe with the injections she has had to treat the pain of joint arthritis and Osteo support supplements from pet shops on your local vet change of organic and holistic approach have helped with her mobility with disciplined care in her needs, diet and ability to do exercise… I am going to try the cold therapy as I believe this will work .. with her mobility, ageing, pain, arthritis, incontinence levels are minor for the moment, exercise is important, so may get her into the water and support her at the beach when its warm, if you have a pool its even better. A dog needs to get back to feeling alive and happy at what they can do without the stress of what they used to do. I’m a lover of my baby girl and only want her happiness and well being to be an everlasting memory she gives me and how much she is loved. Have you heard about stem cell laser.. talk with a vet or someone at a pet store, google online, education was the key for me… talking with others of what is out their to help with your family pet. All the best… keep up with the love and time spent with your baby. My baby is better, never be a 100 per cent, yet with the monthly injections and natural supplements, diet, wet reusable mats for indoor and outdoor use, trial of laser and possiblity of stem cell laser
Thanks for sharing that info and I’m glad you found treatments that are helping your pup. Stem cell therapy is something I asked our rehab vet about when Gretel hurt her back but I was told her condition was too mild to try that kind of treatment. Carly’s pup is clearly having more trouble than Gretel did though. I second the advice for her to ask her vet about that treatment.
I have a Lhasa Apso with joint pain and the cold lasers have helped him a lot. I also haven’t seen any side effects. She just gets around more easily now.
Thanks for pointing out that laser therapy can help to reduce swelling. My beagle was running around playing catch with my children yesterday, and I’ve noticed some swelling on his legs since then. I’ll take my pet to get checked out by a vet to see if laser therapy might be an option.
I just bought the My Pet Laser from multi radiance medical. My dog also has IVDD. How often are you using the laser on your dog? Do you only use it during a back flare or do you use is to help prevent flares?
Hi Jennifer. I use the laser for my dog during times when she is very physically active and the risk for inflammation and re-injury is high. For us, that is during hiking season. I would also use it if she had an actual back flare-up no matter what time of year but, thankfully, she hasn’t had one yet. As for how often on those days, I was instructed by Dr. Youkey at Laser Riffic (https://www.facebook.com/laser.riffic), who I bought mine from, to use it for 2 full cycles a day – one in the am and one in the pm. I believe the cycles are 5 minutes each. I hope that helps and that you are happy with the laser!
We recently had emergency surgery for our Corgi and it was totally unexpected, as the vet explained that we had to have it immediately while she still exhibited deep pain. We proceeded with the surgery and it has been 9 days since and we are following up with administering phy. Therapy as instructed by the vet. She still has no response in her back legs and no control with her bodily functions. The surgery was sooo expensive that we took out a credit care care to pay for it and expended all of our money on harnesses, vet before and after etc. we are at wits end and exploring cold laser treatment, we are unsure if we should proceed or give our girl more time with our current Manuel therapy as we are already experiencing financial hardship. We just hope she can regain her mobility back.
Hi Carolyn. I’m sorry you guys are going through this. Do know that 9 days is not very long. It is true that surgery does not resolve 100% of the problem 100% of the time but it is also very possible that your dog just needs more recovery time to make the improvement. I assume since you are doing physical therapy (with a trained veterinarian or under supervision of one I hope) that your vet is aware of your dog’s progress. What did your vet say about cold laser? I’ve had a good experience, and heard from many other dog owners who have also, so I definitely endorse it. I totally understand that cost needs to be considered too though. Perhaps you could try it once or twice and see if you notice any difference?
Thank you so much for your input and concern?
We love our cold laser. We use it on our dog with hip dysplasia, our arthritic elderly dogs and the horses. They all love it. Great post!
I have followed your site and I have a standard wire-haired female doxy who has just emerged from her crate after 8 weeks of confinement for her second disc episode. She had surgery (very expensive in Canada!) for her first episode and now conservative treatment for her second episode. Be sure to do the full 8 weeks or the discs won’t heal! I had to give her Trazadone so she could stand being in her crate despite the fact that she loves her crate and sleeps in it every night.
She was regaining strength in her hind legs, but not very quickly. We got a LLLT unit for ourselves and it has worked wonders for us. My husband was gung-ho on this but I was sceptical. I am retired now, but I was a Professor of Nursing at our local university so I needed research, not speculation. I have fibromyalgia and it has been getting much worse lately. With this unit, I’m getting better, not worse.
We decided to do this for our dog. We laid her in between my legs and she lies down with her spine sticking up. I hold the goggles on her and my husband holds the unit 6 inches above her back. It reaches from her neck to her tail.
We leave it on for 2 minutes each morning. Suddenly, she became much more active, stronger and happier. She is recovering in amazing time and no side effects. We should have done this a long time ago. Yes, it’s expensive, but the cheap ones on the market do almost nothing unless you leave it on for an hour or so. Even then, the light doesn’t penetrate all the way past the spine and into the discs.
I can see why you are confused regarding LLLT. This used to mean “Low Level Laser Therapy” but there are now many studies that show the light does not have to be laser light, it can be LED light, as long as it is the same therapeutic wavelengths. Now people call it, “Low Level LIGHT Therapy” or cold laser or other names.
Lasers are prohibitively expensive for home use. LEDs are not, but there are so many cheap ones on the market, low irradiance, wrong wavelengths, etc. or they don’t even tell you how many Joules per square centimetre you get. You can get the correct information and reviews of some excellent products from this book, “The Ultimate Guide to Red Light Therapy” by Ari Whitten. It’s on Amazon in paperback. In fact, this book is so good that there are also plagiarized versons on Amazon, using Ari as a first name and changing the last name only. I have no connection to him or his book except that I have one.
Red Light Therapy has helped my little girl and myself tremendously. I’ve used the Assisi Loop and it does help a bit, but not very much. It activates the nitric oxide cycle within the cells and the red lights do a better job of this using light. Yes,the battery runs out, but you can hack into it and replace the coin batteries.
Be sure your red light device has red light wavelength 660 mW for skin issues and near-infrared 850 mW for deep tissues. There are several on the market, but 99% of the red light products are useless.
I know, I know, this sounds like Woo-Woo science but it’s not. There are 382 references to real science in the back of this book. You can look them up and read them if you’re still not convinced.
Look up Red Light Therapy and spend the next few weeks reading what comes up. Or go here:
I have no connection to these folks, either, except I have one of their lights. There are a few other reputable companies, as well. You can reply to me if you would like me to expand on what I’ve said here. Thanks for listening.
Thanks for the extra information Penny and I’m glad your unit is working for you. Since I bought my laser unit the terminology has changed a bit for sure. I’m convinced the laser I have works and is of very good quality. In a more thorough article I wrote, I explained a little more about it and all the research I did, if you want to check that out. https://youdidwhatwithyourweiner.com/laymans-guide-to-buying-a-cold-laser-for-your-dog/
Jessica, can you please explain how you use anti-inflammatories with Gretel? Do you give Metacam every day or whenever she is active or what? I found Laurie’s blog where she explains her “Laser The Shit Out of It” protocol that she used with Gretel, but it doesn’t talk about the dose and frequency of anti-inflammatories either. Can you elaborate?
Hi Penny. I would definitely consult with your vet if you want to give your dog anti-inflammatories on a regular basis. Gretel was given Metacam to be used daily during her first few weeks of crate rest (from IVDD injury) and then it was tapered off. I no longer give it to her regularly. However, we hike, camp, and travel to places where it might be hours or even a day before I can get her to a veterinarian for treatment of a new back issue. For this reason, I asked the vet for a some to carry in my first aid kit. I also have extra pain medication. That way I can “start treatment” right away and reduce the pain and inflammation until we can get to a clinic. I do sometimes give it to her at home if she seems stiff or uncomfortable after a hike (usually she no issues, no matter what the length or difficulty, but occasionally she may twist wrong on the trail), but it’s very occasionally – maybe a few times a year. While having Metacam on hand helps give me peace of mind, our regular veterinarian told me that Gretel cannot be given steroids for a back issue within a certain time period after a Metacam dose. I need to look into this more, and make sure I understood her correctly, but it confirms to me that it should only be used as a last resort if it’s a serious back injury that might require a steroid injection. Using it in small quantities for very minor issues is still ok though (and this is what Dr. Laurie gave it to me for). I just mention this to highlight the importance of talking with your own veterinarian about it.
Thanks for all of this excellent information. Can I ask you whether or not you had Gretel on crate rest when you were using the laser? How long did you keep her on crate rest? Did you use the laser more than once a day? Thanks in advance for any help you can give me.