A Guide to Animal Therapy Lasers for Dogs and Companion Pets
The veterinary and companion pet portion of the therapy laser market is the fastest growing segment. This is because most of best testimonials for cold lasers are in the veterinary field and companion care. There is no possibility for a placebo effect with animals so when an animal is treated with a cold laser and then they return to normal behavior; it is obvious that the therapy is really making the difference. We hear this story everyday; "My dog could not walk into the vet's office and then he jumped back into the car after the laser therapy session." The results speak for themselves.
The requirements for veterinary use are different from the requirements for home use lasers, office lasers or equine lasers. This is a guide for use of cold lasers for vets and companion care, especially laser therapy for dogs.
The FDA does not regulate cold lasers for use on animals. This means that users are free to buy either an FDA cleared devices or lower cost non-FDA devices. Just be careful because some non-FDA lasers may have be extremely low quality. Companies that don't have the organization to get FDA clearance, often have other problems too. They might have fake specs, be illegally smuggled systems or just be laser pointers or flashlights that they call a therapy devices to make a quick buck. These companies often disappear if you need support.
When comparing lasers, make sure you match up the specifications and include construction quality as well as the other factors to determine if it is a good value laser or just worthless junk. We specify performance the requirements and test all the laser we sell so our non-FDA cleared lasers are the very high quality and include a high level of support.
With a few exceptions, anyone can buy any cold laser for animal or companion care.
In veterinary care, there are 2 types of treatments
Broad (Tissue, Skeletal, Joint and Ligament) Therapy - Treating structural injuries and broad areas of damaged tissue is typically done with a large diameter emitter. Cold lasers for this application usually have a treatment diameter the size of dime to a silver dollar. Class 4 lasers, over 5 watts, use a laser module and a fiber optic cable to get the energy to the emitter head. Below 5 watts many manufacturers use multiple laser diodes to create a combined treatment area. In general, laser below 100mW can take a very long time before they produce a noticeable difference in an animal.
Trigger Point or Acupoint Therapy - In trigger point and acupoint therapy, a smaller diameter emitter is used to excite an area of the animal's body that will trigger a systematic reaction. These probes have a max power level of 500 mW. Probes with less than 50 mW are probably underpowered and increasing the power of a pinpoint beam to more than 500 mW would only make it more dangerous. If you are treating small animals including small dogs, cats and hamsters in this type of format, it may drive your selection process and you may want to read our guide to acupoint and trigger point therapy, for extended information. Of course, if you have a broad treatment laser, you can use it for treating acupoints and trigger point by just resetting the entire area. This might not be precise enough for some practitioners but it is a common practice.
Some systems have options for both types of emitters or they sell an option to safely concentrate the output from a larger emitter into a pinpoint.
Power, Wavelength and Pulsing
In general, we make recommendations for systems based on our golden rule for maximum efficacy.
Veterinary cold laser efficacy is based 60% on the power level (or dosage), 20% on wavelength and 20% on pulsing frequency.
Power: The power controls the dosage and the dosage is the key to success. Too low a dosage and nothing happens. Too high and you get maximum pain relief but maybe not the optimum healing. Higher power lasers will provide a higher dosage in a reasonable amount of time and that will provide more noticeable results. Higher power laser do not push the energy deeper, only faster. Many smaller dosages can provide the same results as a few big doses and some practitioners think many smaller doses are actually better. Many pet owners do not have the patience to handle many smaller dosage so a more powerful system is required to provide more immediate results. (Read more about power requirements for lasers) We typically do not sell any system under 450 mW of power because lower power lasers deliver inconsistent results. They might work but they might be a total failure. A 500 mW therapy laser will deliver 450 Joules in 15 minutes. This is a good starting point for many therapies.
We also think that lasers over 30 watts are questionable. These extremely high power lasers can be dangerous for uses on animals with dark hair or fur and they are pushing so much power that they tend to be less reliable. Although some manufacturers love to push these system (because they make a lot more money on these system) the downsides make then a bad option for anyone treating less than 25 animals a day.
Wavelength: It is the wavelength that determines the depth of penetration (or the absorption rate of the light energy as it travels through of the tissue). Selecting the proper wavelength is critical to delivering consistent results. There is NOT one perfect wavelength for every application but studies show that 800 to 860nm is the best option for most therapies. For some applications (like superficial damage, abrasions, hoofs and cuts) Red (635nm) is the better wavelength. 905nm also provides good efficient energy transfer to the cells and deep penetration. In general, 980nm systems are extremely low efficiency therapy lasers. Most of the power at 980nm is absorbed by the water in the tissue. This will increase circulation in the area but 980nm systems are not the best option for many applications because any energy that is converted into heat is not converted in chemical energy which is the main goal of photobiomodulation. (Read more about different wavelengths and how they have different interactions with the tissue).
We recommend avoiding blue lasers and blue light sources. They are sold because the this wavelength of light can kill viruses on contact but they do it by "disrupting their cellular DNA". If you point these systems at living tissue, it will disrupt any DNA that it contacts so it may increase the chances for cancer and other serious problems. Some blue light systems are so underpowered that they won't hurt but that is pointless too. It is really not worth taking the chance to use blue laser on tissue. Currently there is no science to support green, yellow and violet lasers. The companies that sell these systems use the exotic wavelengths for product distinction and marketing purposes but if you dig a little deeper, you will find that they do not have any science to back up the claims.
Pulsing: In general, the consensus is that pulsing is better for most application and continuous wave is best for rebuilding nervous system damage (*See Study Here). Pulsing the laser adds additional benefits in an addition to photobiomodulation. Also, pulsing the laser might keep the body from adapting to the input and reacting less to the therapy over time. The human body adapts to fixed inputs (like wearing clothes) and our bodies can react less to continuous input over long periods of time. The same theory can be applied to lasers. This means that animals with chronic problems that require long-term therapy might start to see declining results with a CW (Continuous Wave) fixed output laser. Based on current technology, we recommend buying a laser that does both pulsing and continuous wave output if it is within your budget. (Read More about pulsing and CW advantages)
For advanced users that will be treating a wide variety of conditions, a multiple wavelength, pulsing, and continuous laser with lots of power is the best option. If you just want a "point and shoot" laser, that will help your veterinary therapy without having to spend a lot of time on setup, buy the product with the most power that you can afford. If you must compromise, focus on wavelengths, but make sure you get enough power. Consider pulsing as a second priority.
Selecting A Laser
There are many great options for cold lasers for companion care and veterinary applications. In most cases, the big decision is whether to buy a class 4 system or a lower power system. Class 4 systems are the best option for anyone with a significant volume of animals to be treated or for problems that require treating a large or deep area. The following laser are all great for veterinary and companion pet therapy.
EVOlaser (Not FDA Cleared) Class 4
9,000 mW - 60,000@ 810nm
Pulsing and Continuous
Internal Horse and Dog Protocol Libraries
Perfect for higher volume
|Starting at $9850|
Apollo Portable (FDA Cleared) Class 4
3000 mW at 810nm
Continuous wave Only
Portable and Simple to Use
Includes Dr. Curtis Turchin's "Veterinary Laser Therapy"
Avant LZ30P, X and Z Portable (FDA Cleared) Class 3
600 mW, 1000 mW and 1400 mW versions @ 808nm
& 80mW, 250mW and 1000mW versions @ 637nm
Pulsing and continuous
Both broad and fine point coverage
3 year warranty and training from a doctor included
PowerMedic PL 1500 and PL1500 Pro (FDA Cleared) Class 3
3000mW peak, 1500 mW pulsed output at 810nm
|Starting at $3995|
Laserex 3000-808-450a Portable (Not FDA Cleared) Class 3
450 mW @ 810nm
Pulsing and continuous
Interchangable head for a single diode 300mW option
Color display of time and dosage
can save custom protocols
|Starting at $2672|
RG500i and RG1000i (Not FDA Cleared) Class 3
500 mW and 1000 mW @ 810nm versions
Programmable power and pulsing.
Pulsing and continuous output
Backlight display with treatment time and dosage
VL500 (Not FDA Cleared) Class 3
500 mW @ 810nm & 40 mW at 635nm
3 different pusling options plus continuous mode
Lithium Ion Battery with Monchrome display
Built in timer
Using the Laser
One of the last critical areas to consider when buying a system is the level of training that comes with the laser. Many systems from other sellers do not include adequate training on how to use the laser on pets and horses. Every system that we sell includes the laser-therapy.us animal protocol library (You can see all the available protocols here). The laser-therapy system dynamically calculates dosage based on key factors like the size of the dog and color of the dogs fur. If you are using a printout of other statically created protocol, you need to get your calculator out or your your dosage can be horribly wrong. Size, fur color and therapy objective have a huge impact on selecting the best dosage for the best results. This is especially key for anyone who does not have experience using a laser on an animal. When you purchase any animal laser from ColdLasers.org, we include the information that you need to properly treat animals using the current best practices.
If you need assistance with selecting which option is best for you, we are here to help! Please call us at 1-800-388-0850 or use the form below to ask a question.
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