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New laser therapy used in veterinary rehabilitation

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Shelly Birkelo
February 2, 2014

WHITEWATER—Tracy Hansen was in tears last year when she took Grace, her 8-year-old Great Dane, to the Whitewater Animal Medical Center & Hospital.

Grace was knuckling—walking on the top of her toes instead of the pads of her paws--because of a pinched nerve in her back. The 124-pound dog was suffering from chronic arthritis and experiencing neck, back, hip and nerve pain.

Medication was prescribed but caused Grace to have an upset stomach and diarrhea.

Hansen was willing to try anything to get Grace some relief.

That's when veterinary technician Tiffany Gretschmann recommended the clinic's new drug-free, surgery-free and pain-free laser therapy.

It uses specific wavelengths of red and near-infrared light that increases circulation, drawing water, oxygen and nutrients to a damaged area. This reduces inflammation, swelling, muscle spasms, stiffness and pain. The infrared laser light also interacts with cellular tissues increasing cellular function and health, according to a clinic brochure.

After Grace's first treatment and by the time Hansen and her dog left the vet clinic, “she had a spring in her step,” Hansen said.

Grace underwent two more laser therapy sessions that week.

Afterward, “she was behaving and moving like a puppy again,” Hansen said.

Since then, Grace returns for laser therapy as often as once a week or as needed when Hansen notices Grace struggling to get up or down.

“I can tell if she doesn't come. It's like getting revived,” Hansen said.

The Animal Medical Center & Hospital laser therapy equipment fits into a small carrying case.

“Every year, we like to include something new in the clinic and try and stay on top of the new stuff that comes out,” Gretschmann said.

Since then, it has been used at least once a day on a dog or cat and even once on a horse.

“Very rarely does it not come out of the box,” Gretschmann said.

During the first week of January, 10 laser therapy sessions were scheduled and up to 75 percent of dogs that have surgery opt for it, she said.

Each laser therapy session costs $15 and shows results usually within a half hour of treatment, Gretschmann said. Sessions are about five minutes, depending on the size of the animal and its health issues.

Laser therapy can help with osteoarthritis, joint pain, tendinopathies, edema and congestion, ligament sprains, muscle strains, puncture wounds, post-traumatic injury, post-surgical pain, neck and back pain, hip dysplasia, burns, chronic wounds, rehabilitation and post orthopedic surgical recovery, according to a clinic brochure.

When Gretschmann treated Grace, she donned laser goggles before moving the laser wand on Grace's neck and back. The flashlight-size wand made a soft hum.

“I work lengthwise then sideways and back and forth. With a wound, I wouldn't touch the dog, I'd hold the wand away and drag my finger across the animal's coat to make sure the (laser) light isn't too hot,” she said.

Gretschmann verbally soothed Grace while trying to keep her from moving during the therapy session.

“Stay. We're almost done,” she said.

“Good girl,” Hansen praised Grace.

Hansen has recommended the laser therapy to others.

“I can't rave enough about it. It's amazing,” she said.

Without the laser therapy, Hansen is convinced Grace would not be alive today.

“Often she couldn't get up on her own, her whole backside was down, and her paws were turned under,” she said.

Grace doesn't whimper or whine anymore like she did before laser therapy, Hansen said.

“I got my dog back,” she said with a smile.

“Dogs are family. We'd do anything to keep her pain free.”



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