If your dog has been diagnosed with Intervertebral Disk Disease (IVDD), or suffered an injury, you have likely heard about “light therapy” or “cold laser” treatments from your veterinarian or others dog owners.
While effective at reducing inflammation and increasing the body’s capacity to heal, most cold laser treatments are only available from your veterinarian and a series of treatments can cost almost $1,000.
For convenience, or in hopes of getting more treatments for a similar price, you may have searched for a unit to do it yourself at home… only to discover high-powered cold lasers for home use can cost thousands of dollars too!
Enter low level light therapy (LLLT), also known as LED or infrared therapy.
In this article, you’ll learn:
- What is Low Level Light Therapy (LLLT)?
- How does LLLT Work?
- How LED light therapy differs from cold laser therapy?
- Why you may want to purchase a light therapy device to use on your dog at home
- About the LumaSoothe light therapy device and how to use it
- Does LumaSoothe work
Disclosure: Some of the links in this article are affiliate links . As an affiliate, I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases.
Disclaimer: I am not a veterinarian. I’m a pet lover with a science background that has experience with, and has researched, light therapy for pets.
What is Low Level Light Therapy (LLLT)??
Low Level Light Therapy (LLLT), sometimes simply called light therapy, treats various disorders by exposure to specific wavelengths of light, called photons, using using light-emitting diodes (LEDs).
Light Therapy is a non-invasive treatment tool for numerous acute and chronic conditions. It can aid in faster healing, provide natural pain relief, and increase circulation to the injured area.
It’s considered a drug free alternative to pain relief and healing.
How Does Low Level Light Therapy (LLLT) Work?
LLLT is administered via one or multiple LED lights.
LEDs emit beams of light containing photons. These photons are absorbed by the photoreceptors within a cell.
When they are absorbed by the damaged tissue cells, including skin, blood, muscle, and bone, they create a cellular response, which reduces pain and jump-starts the healing process.
How Is LED Light Therapy Different Than Laser Therapy?
The difference between light and laser therapy can be confusing because the terms, in regard to these types of therapies, are sometimes used interchangeably.
To further complicate things, pet therapy “lasers” are not really a laser at all. At least not the kind you see on Star Trek that shoot light beams to vaporize objects.
Even pet therapy “lasers” are just a type of light. But the light diode is different than an LED.
L.A.S.E.R.s (Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation) use a very focused beam that must be directed at the specific injury area and they are often so high powered that they should be used only by a medical professional.
LED light therapy produces a more broad beam of light, called non-coherent light, which emits electromagnetic radiant energy of various wavelengths to a broader treatment area.
This makes them safe for most anyone to use at home.
There is some debate over which is better for treatment.
Some argue you want a focused beam, with a very targeted wavelength, to target a very specific area.
Others argue you want a diffuse beam that delivers light energy in a range around a central wavelength, offering greater potential for photon absorption.
A broader beam of light, theoretically, allows more room for “error” in that some light will be absorbed even if you are not holding the device directly over the primary injury area.
I won’t tell you what you should think but, in my opinion (I’m not a veterinarian but do have a background in science), both have the potential to be effective.
Advantages of LED Light Therapy For Home Use on Pets
In general, buying some kind of light therapy unit for home, has several advanages.
- You can administer treatments more frequently
- The cost per treatment is typically lower over time
- You can administer treatments while traveling
- In most cases, you can often administer treatments quicker after an injury or noticing an IVDD flare-up
Advantages of LEDs, specifically, are:
- They’re easy to use & safe
- There is no risk of damage/burning to tissue/cells (no heat is produced by LED light therapy lights)
- No protective glasses are needed when the unit is on
- No special training is required to use them on your pets (but you should always consult with your vet first)
One of the best home light therapy units I’ve seen on the market is LumaSoothe.
What is LumaSoothe?
The LumaSoothe light therapy unit is a LED-based therapeutic tool designed for home use by pet owners.
It uses Class 1 LED’s that are designated as “non-significant risk” by the FDA (however, as with any bright light, always avoid direct contact with eyes).
It comes with two treatment heads.
The IR Deep Treatment Head (DT) provides a combination of 32 infrared (940nm) LEDs, and and 8 green (520nm) LEDs, to provide relief from pain and inflammation.
The surface Treatment Head (ST) provides a combination of 16 red (650nm), 12 green (520nm), 8 blue (470nm), and 4 yellow (590nm) LEDs to promote faster skin healing and hair regrowth.
The light delivered is “pulsed” at a specific rate, called a Nogier frequency, which has been shown to provide better healing benefits than continuous light.
The lifespan of the unit, used 1-2 times a day, is several years.
It’s covered by a manufacturers warranty against defects for 2 full years from the date of purchase.
The best part is that LumaSoothe offers a 30 day no-questions-asked, money back guarantee.
If you decide you don’t want to keep it, you can return it in it’s original packaging, within 30 days of the purchase date, for a full refund (less any shipping charges).
How to Use LoomaSoothe
Initial treatment times (per each individual treatment area) should be 5-8 minutes for the first 3-5 treatments, allowing your pet to acclimate to the light therapy.
Treatment times can then be extended to 15 minutes per treatment area.
Generally, one 15 minute session per area per day is appropriate. However, you can retreat problem areas a second time with at least 4-5 hours between treatments, if desired.
Note: For ease of use, your LumaSoothe has a built-in 15 minute timer. Once the lights stops, you know the treatment session is over. You can immediately treat other areas or wait the 4-5+ hours to re-treat the same exact area again.
LumaSoothe includes 2 Treatment Modules, that are changed with a press of a button. Using the correct treatment head for your pets particular condition is key to seeing results.
As a reminder:
IR Deep Treatment (DT) Module is used for deep bone, muscle and joint related conditions such as arthritis, bursitis, tendinitis, and IVDD.
Surface Treatment (ST) Module is used for surface, skin and hair related conditions, such as cuts/wounds, hair loss, and mange.
So just choose the appropriate head based on the condition being treated, snap it in, and turn the unit on.
Then place the head of the device lightly on your pet’s coat over the area to be treated and move it in a slow circular motion for the duration of the treatment time.
Does LumaSoothe Work?
In order to be effective, a light therapy unit must possess certain inherent qualities.
Without at least meeting the minimum standards, the product is little more than a fancy gimmick that is unlikely to provide the needed treatment.
The next question is, are there scientific studies showing that LLLT works?
Lastly, do the people using it think it works? Do they see a difference in the pain levels, and mobility of their dog?
I attempt to answer all 3 of these questions below.
Does LumaSoothe Meet The Requirements to Be Effective?
When my Dachshund Gretel was diagnosed with IVDD, I extensively researched cold lasers and light therapy (read my findings on light/laser therapy HERE) in order to purchase a unit to use at home.
The most important feature of a light therapy device for IVDD is the wavelength of light emitted.
The wavelength determines how deep the light penetrates. You need one that penetrates deep enough to reach the area affected by IVDD.
If you want to light therapy to treat more than surface issues, the wavelength should be a minimum of 800 to 860 nm.
Ideally, to treat deeper IVDD issues, the unit should have a light with a wavelength of at least 905 nm.
LumaSoothe does this with IR Deep Treatment Head (DT), which contains LED lights of 940nm, so it is “effective” in that regard.
The power output of the unit matters but primarily in regard to the treatment time required.
The higher the power of the unit, the shorter the treatment time per session needed to receive the same treatment benefit.
As long as the laser is over 5 Milliwats (mW) (so, not a laser pointer for your cat or computer), it will deliver some level of treatment. Beyond that, there is no application time that will make treatment with such a low-powered device therapeutic.
Although LumaSoothe does not disclose the wattage of the device on their website, I have confirmed that the power of their unit is well over 5 mW so the unit meets this requirement too.
LumaSoothe’s required treatment time to achieve the treatment benefits of 75.15J(joules)/cm2 of power (IR Deep Treatment Head), and 61.1J/cm2 of power (Surface Treatment Head), is 15 minutes.
Note: I know I have not previously introduced this measurement (J/cm2) but I’m only including it here in case you want to compare it to a similar product that lists this information.
There are higher powered light therapy units out there (you usually have to move up to a laser to find them) for home use but LumaSoothe’s 15 minute treatment time per session is reasonable for most people and pets.
However, the required treatment time can make a difference when it comes to effectiveness.
Although the light on the LumaSoothe is more diffuse, and covers a broader area than with a laser, you still need to direct the light at the affected area. That is only possible if you can get your dog to stay relatively still.
If your dog starts to squirm and move away from you before the 15 minutes is up, the full treatment time may not be achieved, this making it less effective.
Are There Scientific Studies That Show LLLT is Effective?
I couldn’t find any studies on LumaSoothe specifically.
Most of the light therapy studies I found were done on humans. Personally though, I believe that if it works on people, it must also work on animals.
I did find this study that showed LLLT is affective at helping to heal skin lesions (surface treatment) in dogs.
This study, using a sample size of 36 dogs suffering from IVDD, and using a unit with a wavelength of 810-nm (reminder: LumaSoothe’s infrared wavelength is longer than that – 950-nm) concluded that,
“The time to achieve [improved spinal cord function (Flankel Score)] was significantly lower in the low-level laser therapy group [by a median of 10.5 days]than the control group.”
So there are some scientific studies out there but they are very limited.
LumaSoothe Reviews From Owners of Dachshunds With IVDD
I’ve spent over 15 years of my life studying Dachshunds – a breed prone to IVDD – so I “listen in” on many Dachshund and IVDD related Facebook groups and forums.
Although some veterinarians will tell you that LLLT is not nearly as strong and penetrating as cold laser, there is anecdotal evidence that it is still effective.
From Other Dachshund Owners
The general consensus among people who have tried LumaSoothe is that they feel like it is helping their dog.
Unfortunately, for legal reasons, I can’t cut and paste these reviews on my own blog so you will just have to trust me (or sort through these Facebook conversations).
However, some common statements I saw were:
- You can see he’s feeling better in his eyes and energy
- I immediately saw a difference in his speed and mobility
- I whole-heartedly believe that it is making a difference
- My dog relaxes after a few minutes of use and looks forward to getting treatments
I will note that most people are using LumaSoothe in conjunction with other complimentary treatments, like water therapy and acupuncture, so improvement over time can’t be directly correlated to LumaSoothe.
I will also note that more people than not said they thought LumaSoothe was good for maintenance, vs more powerful initial treatment at the vet, or for use in between professional treatments.
My Experience With LumaSoothe
I have experience with a cold laser unit for home and have definitely seen the positive effects of treatment.
I’ve also paid for cold laser treatments at the vet’s office and seen how much better my dog seems to feel after.
In other words, I have something to compare our LumaSoothe experience too.
But, to be clear, LumaSoothe is not the same as a cold laser (as explained above). It uses similar wavelengths of light but works in a different way.
I’ve performed 10 treatments on my Dachshund with IVDD and calcified spinal disks, Gretel, since receiving our LumaSoothe unit.
I waited until 10 treatments before giving my full opinion here because most user reports say it takes at least 6-8 treatments to see a difference for their Dachshund.
At the point I started using the LumaSoothe on my Dachshund Gretel, she had been sighing when laying around the house, which is not normal for her and could indicate some discomfort.
She was also going slower on our walks. It’s been a cold winter where we live and it’s possible the cold was making her bones and joints sore.
After 10 treatments, she doesn’t seem to be sighing like she was when sleeping and she seems to be moving around a little easier.
I know she enjoys the treatments because she relaxes and looks a little sleepy, which helps to keep her still for the full 15 minutes needed, when I’m using the LumaSoothe on her.
I do think part of the reason she’s relaxing is the deep treatment head does warm up slightly when in use.
It’s not enough to be hot but warm enough that she can feel it on her skin and I know she likes heat.
The LumaSoothe light therapy device is NOT approved for human use but, based on my previous research and experience, I decided to try using it on myself.
Gretel obviously can’t talk to let me know if it’s working but I figure if I notice a difference, she must too.
I’ve been using it on a pinched nerve in my back, twice a day for the full 15-minute treatment time.
My back has started feeling better but I am also doing other things to help my back in conjunction so I can’t say that it’s only the LumaSoothe that is making my back feel better.
The bottom line is, I do think it helps, even if it’s just a little bit.
The negative for me is that a 15-minute treatment time feels excruciatingly long but it probably wouldn’t if I didn’t own a cold laser for pets that only requires a 5-minute treatment time. It’s just a big difference.
I will also note that the connection for the power source to charge it is at a weird angle and feels very fragile.
The Bottom Line Regarding LumaSoothe Light Therapy
If you came here wanting a definitive answer whether the LumaSoothe, or Low Level Light Therapy in general, will work for your pet, I can’t give you that.
First, you have to believe in the science and that this kind of therapy can work.
If you go into it with a skeptical eye, thinking that it probably won’t, then your experience will likely reflect your beliefs.
LLLT is an “alternative” or “complimentary” treatment that is unlikely to show clear black and white before and after results.
But it can influence healing time, pain levels, and supplement other treatments.
I liken it to acupuncture. I can’t feel a huge difference when I leave my doctor’s office but after about 6 treatments I’m not experiencing the pain I was when I started, at least not to the same degree.
Second, each pet is different. As with drugs or surgeries, each animal may respond differently to treatment.
Your pet may show a dramatic response to treatment or it may be imperceptable.
What is clear is that there is some scientific and anecdotal evidence that it can work.
Also, purchasing a LumaSoothe light therapy device is significantly cheaper than a series of laser treatments by a veterinarian or purchasing a high-powered cold laser unit for home.
With a 30-day money back guarantee, the risk to try it is low.