There are many ways to help your dog heal after surgery, such as acupuncture, massage, or turmeric paste. Another treatment you may have heard of is photonic light therapy, which uses a laser with red or near-infrared light to penetrate damaged cells at specific points on the body. A laser, in the simplest terms, is an amplifier of light, emitted in the form of photons (electromagnetic energy). The absorption and penetration levels of each photon is determined by its wavelength. When the photons, in the form of light, come into contact with biological tissue, part of it is absorbed, part is reflected or scattered, and part is further transmitted. The primary benefits of light therapy come from those photons that are absorbed, initiating activity at the molecular, cellular, and tissue levels. Interestingly, damaged cells and tissues have been shown to have a significantly higher response to light therapy than healthy cells.
At its core, light therapy does three main things: increases healing, decreases inflammation, and decreases pain. But how?
Application of red light therapy stimulates mitochondria within a cell, which increases production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), nitric oxide (NO), and reactive oxygen species (ROS), all of which are involved in various physiological and pathological processes in the body. ATP, for example, sends signals to the brain to release endorphins and serotonin, which are both natural pain relievers. Other healing effects triggered by light therapy include:
- Increased oxygenation in the cell
- Increased cell generation and migration
- Increased circulation and lymphatic drainage
- Increased antibody production in the bloodstream
- Increased collagen production, which strengthens tendons, bones, cartilage, and skin
- Suppression of enzymes that cause inflammation
Red and near-infrared light can penetrate tissue because they are not blocked by blood or water as much as other wavelengths. This wavelength is also used in medical settings for people, treating things like burns, wounds, joint/muscle pain, and other injuries. We of course know now that light therapy can be used to treat certain ailments in animals as well. Over the past several years, new developments in technology have made it possible to administer light therapy to your dog in the comfort of your own home with smaller, portable lasers. If you don’t feel comfortable administering light therapy yourself, however, many veterinarians will do it in their office.
Improvements are often seen after only a few light therapy sessions, but may take up to 12 in chronic cases, before shifting to less frequent sessions. Some chronic conditions, such as arthritis, require ongoing therapy. While photonic light therapy may very well be a good option for expediting your dog’s post-surgery healing process, there are a few things to be aware of. Light therapy should not be used:
- On the eyes, as it may cause retinal damage
- If cancer is present, because the therapy could potentially stimulate cancerous cell activity
- If your dog has any kind of bleeding disorder
- Over the reproductive organs
As with any kind of treatment, always consult with your vet. He/she can evaluate your dog’s particular situation and help you decide if photonic light therapy is a good option for you.