Laser light takes aim at pet’s pain: First-of-its-kind therapy in region

WILLIAMSBURG – A laser beam is shedding new light – and life – into man's best friend and cats too.

Northern Michigan Veterinary Hospital, led by Dr. Eric Peck, is the first in the region to offer Class IV laser therapy for ailing animals. Use of therapeutic lasers in veterinary medicine is relatively new, says Peck, and until now was done using Class III lasers, which had achieved mixed results in veterinary settings.

From helping to speed healing of wounds or post-surgery sites to relieving chronic pain caused by arthritis or hip dysplasia, Class IV laser therapy delivers a more powerful treatment, deeper into the tissue, in a shorter amount of time.

A little bit of the science behind it: photons of light (joules of energy) from the beam stimulate the damaged cells. This action increases circulation while decreasing inflammation and pain in the treated area.

A Class IV laser is 5,000 times more powerful than a Class III laser, says Peck. The technology has been evolving over the last few years, he adds, and its benefits have become significantly more documented over the last year.

Even so, Peck is a self-described skeptic. But what about this cutting-edge therapy convinced him?

"I'm a bit of a technology guy when it comes to medicine," says Peck, a Kalkaska native who has been practicing for 22 years and two years ago built his own practice on M-72 in Williamsburg. "But I also made a leap of faith."

And quite a leap it was. He purchased the laser therapy machine for $23,000 and began offering treatments in March. The demand – and the results – are better than he ever imagined. Of the 30 patients treated so far, 80 percent of clients are so pleased they are continuing with on-going maintenance treatments.

Peck anticipated performing one to two treatments a week for a payoff on his investment in three years. But the office typically does two treatments per day, or 10 a week, he says. Cost of the treatment ranges from $140 to $350 for seven sessions.

The initial laser therapy treatment plan calls for three sessions a week for a total of seven treatments. The frequent treatments are necessary to establish the healing process, Peck explains. After that point, depending on progress and severity, treatments can begin to wane, even to one every four weeks.

In most cases, if the animal is being treated for pain management along with oral medications, they will likely remain on that medication, Peck says. If a chronic pain issue is in the early stages, some owners try laser therapy before drugs.

Here's how it works: A two centimeter laser beam performs "pulse therapy" of about 25-30 seconds to a specific spot on the animal's body. Depending on the problem, there are a varying number of specific points that receive treatment during one session. For example, arthritis in a dog's hip joint requires treatment on six to twelve specific points. X-rays are required before treatment to pinpoint the exact locations of the pain.

What does your pet feel? A slight vibration, is all. The treatment is completely non-invasive and painless – no needles, no anesthesia, no risk. Patients lie on a blanket on the floor with their owner right next to them to help them relax. One treatment takes seven to eight minutes on average. The typical age of one of Peck's laser therapy patients is 10 and older.

There's Oscar, for instance. The 13-year-old lab patient of Dr. Peck's had surgery for a torn ACL a few years back. Recently he began laser therapy treatments. His owner reports that the change in his comfort and agility has been nothing short of amazing. BN

For more information on this new laser therapy treatment in northern Michigan, contact Northern Michigan Veterinary Hospital at 935.9500, traverseanimalhospital.com.

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