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On the bright side

Laser light therapy increases healing for animals at Lenox vet clinic

Published: Friday, Oct. 25, 2013 10:38 a.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013 10:48 a.m. CDT
Ernie, a labrador, receives a light therapy treatment by Wayne Haidsiak Thursday. Haidsiak's new light therapy machine helps decrease pain in animals with arthritis, but also increases the healing process in animals that have had surgery or other ailments.

LENOX — Light makes everything just a little bit brighter.

At least, that’s how veterinarian Wayne Haidsiak views laser light therapy, new to Tri-County Veterinary Services in Lenox.

“At first, when I was looking at this, I thought, ‘How can that help?’” Haidsiak said. “I’ve used it on five or six dogs already with bad hips, bad legs. Almost every one of them have reported a change in the dog in the first 24 hours.”

Haidsiak chose several dogs to do trial runs on. He has been able to see how each dog reacts to the treatments, and Haidsiak can adjust treatments to fit a certain dog better based on the severity and depth of pain.

“It’s been absolutely amazing,” said Haidsiak. “Does it take care of everything? Absolutely not. It’s not going to cure it. But most all of them have noticed an improvement.”

Common ailments light therapy treats are arthritis, abdominal issues, abscesses, urinary tract infections, dental diseases, lick granulomas, hot spots and post-surgery pain.

“All my surgery cases get treated post-surgery. What is does, it helps relieve some of the pain of the surgery, but it also stimulates the area to heal a little better,” Haidsiak said.

What is it?

Light therapy is a medical treatment that uses light photons to increase blood flow by expanding the blood vessels, which in turn speeds the healing process.

“This is not going to replace everything, by any means. But, it will help where some of the pain medicine isn’t working. And, maybe, instead of using a lot of it, I can get away with using a little pain medicine.”

Light waves travel into the targeted area, with depth and strength determined by certain electrical calculations made based on the animal and its appearance.

The light waves then expand blood vessels, allowing blood to flow better through targeted body parts, and in turn decreasing pain or increasing the speed of healing by attempting to increase cell growth.

Light therapy

Haidsiak was at a continuing education meeting when he first realized he wanted to use light therapy.

“He (a Des Moines veterinarian) was talking about a fracture,” Haidsiak said. “It was there, but the bone wasn’t healing, and this had been several weeks. So they initiated a laser (light) therapy on it. And, within two or three weeks they could see a tremendous improvement. So, it just triggers me up, and I’m excited for the potential use of it.”

Haidsiak has used the two-week-old light therapy machine on his furry patients, and already he’s seen improvements.

The $30,000 machine has a handheld with an attachment on the end that a laser shoots out of as a pointer. Haidsiak uses the laser to gauge where the light is going on the animal’s body. The strength of the light waves going into the body is dependent on the area to be treated.

Haidsiak said he’s been treating a dog with a urinary tract infection.

“When the dog came in, his bladder was so inflamed. He was peeing all the time, peeing blood,” said Haidsiak. “I took the laser (light) and went around his abdomen. ... I checked this dog Wednesday, and the dog has stopped most of the extra urinating, the blood’s went away and when I checked it, the bladder was actually relaxed enough I could feel how many stones were in it.”

Pain medicine

Haidsiak said there’s a push across the globe for the increased use of pain medicine for animals. However, he is against using too much.

“I’m a person who tends to think pain medicine is (used) too much. We use too much pain medicine in people. And so, it’s hard for me to get really excited about going over the deep end in animals. But, my thinking is if there’s this big group of people saying we really do need to do pain therapy, this is something that’s pretty non-intrusive. Doesn’t hurt. And, if it really does stimulate healing, it’s a win-win,” said Haidsiak.

One example of how the light therapy works with dogs on pain medicine was with a furry patient of Haidsiak’s that has improved.

“I have one of the dogs who was already on pain medicine. And, the dog was still limping even with that. I treated him last Monday, and they called me on Tuesday and said, ‘The dog’s better,’” Haidsiak said. “If the dog continues to improve, we’re going to see if we can decrease the amount of pain medicine.”


There are several dangers, however, with this technology.

“Don’t look it in the eye,” Haidsiak said.

The laser pointer is strong enough to blind a person or animal.

It is also not recommended to be used on the thyroid gland, reproductive organs, unborn fetuses, cancer and acute trauma cases.

It is uncertain how the technology will affect cell growth in unborn fetuses, and it can be dangerous in acute trauma cases because of increased blood flow.

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