Neuse River Golden Retiever Rescue
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Neuse River Golden Retiever Rescue

Pain management, your stories and some Q&A

by User Not Found | Jul 28, 2012

Thanks so much to those of you who shared your stories and experiences with acupuncture and laser therapy.  As I mentioned in my post, you never know what’s going to work and all dogs are different.  Not everyone will have the same experiences.  Medications and alternative therapies can have side effects, but the important thing to remember is that you have options.  Be careful when scouring the internet, don’t get caught up in the hype.  Read about the positives and the negatives of all therapies.  It’s important to educate yourself, but be sure you speak with your veterinarian about the best realistic approach for your dog.  The following is a great story that one of our volunteers shared with me.


“I want to share with you what an amazing response my 13 year old golden has had to laser therapy.  About 3 weeks ago I took him to my vet fearing that there was nothing we could do and it would be best for Chaser to put him to sleep.  Chase, my so called pedigree golden, has bad hip dysplasia, but is one of those dogs who deals with pain on some other plane.  He has been a happy, active boy much to everyone's surprise.  But on Sunday night he slipped and his back legs went out like a frogs.  He could not get up Monday morning without help. 

I called my vet and they had me bring him in.  There is nothing like a car ride and a trip to the vet to get Chaser's bounce back.  Even still I knew he was hurting.  We started laser therapy that day.  This is a dog who has never sat still for anything and hates having his feet, back legs, tail, etc touched. I was amazed.  He stood still with this look of bliss on his face for 30 minutes.  We have just completed the 3 week sessions and I will probably get him in for therapy every couple of weeks.  It isn't cheap.  It doesn't work for all dogs or cats, but it is magic for Chase.  He is still lame and has trouble getting up, but he can get up.  Once on his feet he is ready to go.  He is 13 and still starts the day with a smile on his beautiful face.”

And another story:


“Our dog, Biscuit, had acupuncture several times in hopes it might help his seizures (it did not unfortunately) but the experience itself was very calming for him, nary a movement while the tiny needles are placed and then he merely laid down on the floor and rested for 1/2 hour.” 

And one more!


“I have had two dogs (NRGRR dogs Rain and Casey/Satin) who have had laser therapy for pain management to great success.  In both cases, the dogs had progressively painful hips...having trouble "keeping up" with walks and in both cases they showed significant improvement in mobility.  I'd also say that there was a lot more tail wagging post treatments versus pre-treatments.  In the beginning (depending on the dog’s individual situation) there may be multiple treatments a week tapering off after several weeks.  I saw improvement in both cases after the first and second treatments.  Yes, it's an investment of time and money but it is so worth it to know that my guys were happier.  It's also interesting to note that many vets are using lasers to heal wounds faster -- hot spots, surgical wounds, etc., so it's not just for pain management.


I also use acupuncture for one of my dogs who is a puppy mill survivor to help him overcome his extreme fear of the world outside of a cage.  While this treatment is a much longer investment of time and money it has helped him gain some courage and calm his mind during times of stress.

And finally, below are some questions I sent on to a new friend to the rescue, Dr. Erin O’Leary, DVM.  Dr. O’Leary is the founder and owner of Heal, a mobile pet laser therapy service right here in the triangle!

1.  What conditions/diseases are you using laser therapy for?


Laser therapy can be used for a number of different conditions including (but not limited to!): arthritis, hip dysplasia, cruciate tears, patellar luxation, intervertebral disc disease, any musculoskeletal pain or inflammation, wounds, snake bites, lick granulomas, post-heartworm treatment pain, muscle or ligament tears, acute traumatic injury, fractures, stomatitis and post-operative incisions.  


2.  What can I expect at treatment?  


Treatments are non-invasive and generally pleasant to the patient. The hand piece is directed over the particular area and can be in contact or not depending on the condition we're treating.   Pets feel a warm sensation while being treated and you may feed treats, pet them, or do whatever makes them comfortable during treatments.  Treatments usually range from 2-8 minutes per area depending on pet size and area we're treating.  The number of treatments needed can range from 1-2 to 8-10 depending on the chronicity of the condition and the pet's individual response to therapy, we typically begin with an induction period (where treatments are more frequent) until we've reached an optimal level of response then we taper down to the point where we can maintain that response level.  This does vary from pet to pet.  


3. How does laser therapy work?


A laser beam produces photons that are absorbed by cells within damaged tissue.  These cells send a message to increase the amount of energy available to accelerate the healing process.  A number of different responses are initiated by laser treatments including increased blood flow to the damaged tissue, a release of endorphin and a faster and more efficient anti-inflammatory response.    


4. Are there any dangers associated with laser therapy?


Generally laser therapy is extremely safe and has no negative side effects.  Protective eyewear must be worn during sessions as the retinas are vulnerable to damage from the laser beam. All humans wear special goggles to protect their eyes during treatment sessions and we use a towel or dark elizabethan collar to protect the pet's eyes.  We also do not use laser in areas where there is active bleeding or where neoplastic/cancerous conditions are present.  (It has not been shown to increase cancerous growth but on a theoretical level it makes sense to avoid areas where we do not want to encourage cell growth.)  


4.  Is it ok to let someone who is not a vet perform laser therapy?


Laser therapy must be formed under the direct supervision of a veterinarian.  In a veterinary clinic, technicians can be trained to perform laser therapy as long as the protocols and technique are approved and prescribed by a veterinarian.  


5.  Can I use laser therapy instead of medications?


Laser therapy can absolutely reduce or eliminate the need for some medications, very often we can taper down pain medications to a more minimal level and reduce the chance for negative side effects of these medications.  


6.  What is a typical cost for this type of treatment?


Every hospital will vary, often packages are available for initial treatment regimens.  For the mobile laser service the fees are $105 for the initial consult/treatment and $80 for follow up treatments within our normal service area.  There are additional fees for patients outside of the normal service area or who have extended treatment needs.  Often in hospitals you are looking at $30-50 per treatment session.  


For more information on Heal or other pain management issues, you can contact Dr. O’Leary via email or her web site.


Erin O'Leary, DVM

919.904.HEAL (4325)


Thanks again everybody for sharing!  And thanks to Dr. O’Leary for answering some questions for us and helping brain storm about ideas on how to best manage pain in our pets.  Unfortunately we see a lot of neglect when dogs come to NRGRR and this is especially difficult on our senior dogs.  Prevention is the best medicine of course, but it is nice to know about the great advancements we have made in veterinary care that can really help!




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