Here at Betavet, we’re proud to be able to present a completely new form of treatment for animals – MLS Laser therapy. It’s well tolerated by the patients, and even by most insurance companies! We’re increasingly finding it a really beneficial option in treating our patients for a wide range of conditions.

What is a cold laser?

A laser is a beam of light where the light waves are all “in step” (also known as “coherent”). This means that the beam stays together and doesn’t spread out like it would from, say, a torch or lamp. Lasers have been used in industry for many years, primarily to measure distances and to cut things, because they can project a very narrow and intense heat beam, melting and cutting through many materials. However, this heating effect means that they usually aren’t suitable for use in medicine or surgery, because they cause burning of the tissues, which impedes healing.

However, a cold laser is a little different. Although the light is in the infra-red part of the spectrum (which we normally think of as “heat”), the beam doesn’t carry enough energy to heat up the tissues – instead, it works very differently.

How does it work?

Inside every animal cell are a bewildering array of microscopic molecular machines, keeping the cells functioning. Laser light can penetrate the tissues, and is absorbed by some components of these machines, called chromophores. The most important of these are in the cell’s energy producing organs, the mitochondria.

Inside these organs are the electron transport chains that generate energy from burning sugars and fats, releasing a chemical called ATP which the rest of the cell uses as a power source. When the ATP is used to power a reaction, it is converted to ADP, and must be recycled before it can be used again. In fact, some biochemists use the analogy of a battery – once it’s emptied (by being converted to ADP), it must go back to the factory (the mitochondria) to be recharged (by the electron transport chain)!

If this recharging system stopped, the cell would run out of energy in a few seconds (which is why cyanide, which blocks it, is so dangerous). Now, interestingly, it seems that the more efficient this electron transport chain is, the faster energy can be made, and the faster the cell can heal damage, or repair damage to adjacent tissues. In addition, some researchers think that low levels of energy production in the tissues are one of the causes of chronic pain – that inefficient nerve cells are more likely to transmit pain signals.

The cold laser operates on this electron transport system, especially one protein called cytochrome c. When illuminated with laser light of exactly the right frequency, this becomes much more efficient at passing electrons along, boosting energy production and improving cell health.

[For any biochemists reading this – photon absorption converts the cytochrome c’s Fe(II) ligand into Fe(III) and Cu(I) to Cu(II). The more heavily oxidised the complex, the more efficient the electron transport process. There’s a paper on the proposed mechanism here!]

What are the effects on the body?

The therapy has an anti-inflammatory and painkilling effect, and boosts wound and tissue healing at multiple levels. It also reduces scar formation, improves blood flow (which further speeds healing!) and seems to improve nerve cell function, which may help with reducing chronic pain.

What can it be used for?

There are a wide range of different uses, but we most commonly use it for:

  • Management of arthritis and tendonitis
  • Speeding wound healing
  • Reducing inflammation in Lick-Granulomas and inflamed ears

While we usually use it in dogs and cats, it’s also suitable for rabbits, rodents, and exotic pets.

What happens in a laser session?

Your pet’s initial consultation will be with one of our vets, who will decide whether laser treatment is suitable, and if it is, what programme is needed. The laser appointments are usually with our specially-trained veterinary nurses, who apply the beam for the appropriate time and intensity for the condition being treated. Both they and your pet will have to wear special laser goggles – laser light is very bad for the eyes! In general, most patients start out with 2 to 3 sessions per week, but then it becomes less frequent as the condition improves.

How can I find out more?

Make an appointment with one of our vets to see if laser therapy would help them!