Laser Therapy For Animals


FOTCM Member

I've a question regarding laser therapy as our one dog has been receiving said therapy along her spine. This takes place at the veterinarian office (and there are two places where she goes). The lasers often look like this and a brief description of use looks like this:

Dr. Downing says that laser therapy for dogs can also help with:
  • Surgical wound healing
  • Traumatic wound healing
  • Increasing the metabolism of specific tissues
  • Reducing the formation of scar tissue
  • Immunoregulation
  • Improving nerve function and nerve regeneration
  • Releasing of painful trigger points
  • Speeding the healing of infections

and accomplishes this:

Therapeutic laser therapy uses light energy, which is cold or low-level, to work its “magic.” Light used at specific frequencies causes a physiological change at the cellular level, explains Dr. Troy, an integrative veterinary practitioner.

These changes can include replenishing adenosine triphosphate (ATP, the molecule that carries energy in the cells of every living being), reducing inflammation and decreasing pain transmission.

While the exact method of action for laser therapy has not yet been identified, it is thought that, in essence, it provides a “jump start” to the cells needed for healing and other body processes.
A more comprehensive overview is here at ColdLasers that sells unites to veterinarians. Their description includes 'Pulsing & Continuous Wave' outputs and wavelengths, and Dosage. From what I've been reading, and this gets to my question below at the end, power strength seems to determine (well cost for one thing) only the length of treatment application, say a 15 to 20 minute treatment vs. 10 minutes.

As for cost, you can see some of their unites in the link are very expensive.

The single most important factor in successful laser therapy is getting the right dosage. Special pulsing and wavelengths can help tweak the laser for maximum results but dosage of the right wavelength is the key to success. Just like we see in the pharmaceutical industry, delivering the correct dosage is the difference between success and failure. If the dosage is too little, nothing happens. If the dosage is too high, we do not worry about a life threatening overdose but we waste a lot of time and money and sometimes get less positive results. Dosage for laser therapy is measured in total joules o r joules/cm2 at the depth of the damaged area. Larger treatment areas and deeper areas require more dosage. When Turner and Hode analyzing all the unsuccessful studies on LLLT that people use to discredit laser therapy, they found in every case that the dosage was too low that they should not have shown positive results. Throughout this website, you will see information about how different conditions require different dosages and how different lasers are best suited for different applications.

Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation about cold lasers on the web. Low power laser manufacturers publish studies and articles trashing higher power laser manufacturer and vise versa. When we first started doing research, the information was incredibly confusing and convoluted. We built this site to help people clear through the fog of conflicting claims. We don't bash any science-based systems because we know each system has a niche but our general rules are "if it looks like a laser pointer, it probably is a laser pointer".

Pulsing & Continuous Wave (CW) Output Lasers

Lasers can be either continuous wave or pulsing output . Continuous wave means that the laser is turned on 100% of the time during the treatment and a pulsing laser is turned on and off very quickly during the treatment. Pulsing is defined by 2 variables:

  1. Pulsing frequency measured in Hz (how many times it turns on in one second)
  2. Duty cycle (measured as a percentage of ON time to total time).

There is no consensus in the laser community about what is the best pulsing frequency for laser therapy but with the exception of nervous system tissue damage, pulsing is recommended for most applications. The average pulsing setup is 25Hz to 500Hz and a 50% duty cycle. Super-pulsing lasers are much lower duty cycle but they are typically very high peak power. Most cheaper lasers are continuous wave output only.

Wavelengths Used in Laser Therapy

In general, each wavelength interacts with the cells in your body in a unique way. If you want to read more about the advantages and disadvantages of each wavelength, read our article on "wavelengths used in the laser therapy".

800-860nm: This wavelength is best for increasing cytochrome C oxidase and adenosine tri-Phosphate (ATP). It is our recommendation for anyone seeking the best long-term benefit and it is offered by every single manufacturer we sell. This wavelength provides the best combination of depth of penetration and photo-chemical reaction. If you only buy one wavelength, this would be our recommended one.
600-660nm: Best for more superficial therapies and best for absorption by the blood. This wavelength is the second best for ATP release and also for interaction with melanin and has the highest absorption rate in blood. Erchonia and Aura are the big manufacturers who works mainly in this wavelength only but many other manufacturers uses it as a supplemental or secondary wavelength.
940nm and Up: This is the one of least efficient wavelengths for a therapy laser since much of the energy that is abosorbed by water in the tissue and any that is converted into heat is not converted into chemical energy. As we see in a graph of the optical window, this band can have up to 100% of the energy absorbed by water. This wavelength has become very popular because the diodes are inexpensive since they are also used in surgical lasers and so they are the highest profit lasers. Surgical laser manufacturers say that they use 980nm because it is perfect for heating, cutting and cauterizing. It can be a good 2nd or 3rd choice for a wavelength in a general purpose laser but we feel that is is a bad choice for a single wavelength system.
900-910nm: This wavelength is not technical inside the optical window but it is still below the inflection point where there is a rapid increase in absoption by water in the tissue. It is often combined with an electromagnetic field to drive the photons for better results. This wavelength is typically recommended for increasing oxygenation from the iron in hemoglobin. These system are the safest lasers because of the the pulsing technology used in all 900 - 910nm systems. These system typically deliver low dosage but often make up for it with high peak power, a magnetic field and an emphasis on pulsing.
Below 600nm: Wavelengths below 600nm have become popular in consumer products that claim their products have mystical properties. There is very little scientific research on these wavelengths and none of the elite laser companies work in this spectrum. UV light (400â??495 nm) can be used to sterilize the treatment area (because it disrupts the DNA of the bacteria) so it could be good for a triage laser but using it is like a chiropractor slathering every patient with antibacterial cream before they do an adjustment. It might cause more harm that good. At this point in time pink, purple and green lasers are not used by any of the core laser therapy company and there is very little science to prove their value. They are mainly promoted by fringe companies with wild claims. They might be the next great thing or they might be 100% marketing hype.
This article is from Veterinarian Practice News that adds information for their treatments.

Okay, keeping "if it looks like a laser pointer, it probably is a laser pointer" in mind, my one vet replaced the old more bulky unit with more or less a handheld non tethered flashlight style like this or this and even this (found on amazon):


One can also get articles such as 'Layman’s Guide to Buying a Cold Laser for Your Dog' while other less expensive unites look like these ones here (from the manufacturer) and it is further discussed here (series of 5 minute treatments):



Can I say our dog has benefited, yes, think so, and it has to do with increasing blood flow to her weakened spine and other things I don't know, and by the sounds of it, even the industry does not know - yet it works. Then there is the question of marketing (many thousand to under a thousand $) with power outputs and other matters determining. So, is the cost also determined because some units are aimed at professional practices, and equipment costs are always high, whereas for home use these devices are usually low cost. So in the end, can a low cost unite accomplish higher cost results? There is also the continuous wavelength vs the pulse wavelength arguments, and as was said above, cheaper is not pulse waves.

Thank you for your thoughts.


FOTCM Member
Sorry if I don't have much to comment on the topic. Lasers and rehabilitation in general interest me, and hopefully at some point I'll know more about it. So far I was able to observe only couple of laser treatments in a dog, and also participated in the rehabilitation masterclass in Russia.

So this is what the teacher told us. fwiw.

She said that rehabilitation by laser is being thoroughly discredited in Russia, primarily because most of the lasers that you can buy online are not really lasers. Meaning, people are buying something that is perhaps useful as part of general "light therapy" (like infrared), but it can't be considered as trully laser therapy. And some of them are not effective at all.

She said that "real" lasers are usually small in size, quite expensive, and pretty dangerous. There are "hot" and "cold" lasers, and obviously "hot" lasers are more dangerous.

Here's for example, a therapeutic laser that they have at the rehabilitation clinic: At the beginning you can hear the doctor at the background saying "It hurts", and then the assistant begins the laser treatment. In the end you can see that there is no pain and the doctor says: "The pain is gone".

They also provide a detailed information, but you are probably aware of it already. But I'll quote and translate the most relevant part here:

There is a classification of all lasers into power classes.
All medical lasers are either Class III (1 - 500 mW) or Class IV (750 mW - 16 W) lasers.
Low Intensity Class III lasers (cold lasers) do not require additional eye protection when working (although care must be taken with cats and dogs with black hair).
High Intensity lasers are those which, for example, perform eye surgery, i.e. a laser beam that can cut.
Lasers below class three have no effect on tissue processes (only some surface heating is possible) and cannot be used as physiotherapy or for other medical purposes.
Additionally, the wavelength of 600 ~ 900 nanometers is important for lasers used in rehabilitation...

In the video attached to the post we show how laser therapy can relieve muscle pain in a dog which, due to an injury to the chest limbs, is forced to carry all its weight only on its hind legs. This strain caused the muscles to overwork, they become hard as a rock and got inflammed.

We specifically publish the whole video without editing, cutting, or removing the background sound so that you can see how the correct laser works in the right hands: at first, the dog felt pain when massaging the pelvic limb muscles, and after the laser therapy the pain went away.
Bottom line is, according to them and based on the research, only a class III laser with a wavelength of 600-900 nanometers has a proven theraputic effect.

The one they use at the clinic and what you see in the video is PowerLaser PRO PLp500 with a wavelength of 808nm.

Apparently it is the same that is being used in the leading rehabilitation clinics abroad.

Here's a link to one of the sites just to give you an idea about the price. 😅 :nuts:
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FOTCM Member
Here's a link to one of the sites just to give you an idea about the price. 😅 :nuts:
Thanks Keit. The online laser therapy world is a minefield of opinions and prices, however I checked the link. :whistle:

As my original poking around on some sites mentioned:

Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation about cold lasers on the web..."if it looks like a laser pointer, it probably is a laser pointer".


FOTCM Member
Yes, that what is advised in relation to types 1 and 2 lasers. The one the clinic uses is a type 3 one.

Or I misunderstood your reply?


FOTCM Member
Yes, that what is advised in relation to types 1 and 2 lasers. The one the clinic uses is a type 3 one.

Or I misunderstood your reply?
No, you are on point and that quote can make it look like all pointer types are the same. So, yes, type 3's can be laser pointer like and can't be compared to the others.

Think I'm slowly getting a better idea here with what to asses.


FOTCM Member
I recently attended an online lecture by Thor laser (UK based Photobiomodulation company). The lecture was mainly about photobiomodulation for humans but it also spoke about the benefits for animals, which was fascinating.

There are SO many devices on the market I can certainly understand your predicament. The lecturer said that Thor laser did a review of other brands and stated that out of all the lasers on the market, approx. 15% had the power that they claimed to have in their advertising. I know there is a chance they could be biased, but when I have spoken to Keyhole he said that he has read the same. Maybe this thread would provide you with some information?

From what I understood, to treat a pet, the device does not have to be a specific pet device, human lasers/ LED devices can be used on animals too. The only problem is when the animal has thick black skin- like a black horse, where the light may not be able to penetrate as easily.

Thor also advised a class 3b laser which "typically has more power and small beam size, so greater power density", or, you could use an LED red light device which- "typically has less power and larger beam size so lower power density". See here: Photobiomodulation PetTHOR - THOR Laser

Class IV lasers are stronger than 3B but they do not work as well because they can over treat tissue. Just like any medicine an overdose can be a bad thing. Class IV beams need to be defocused so that they do not cut tissue, and so they work in the same fashion as 3B lasers, but even so the beams are still a bit too strong and do not work so well. Scientific evidence confirms that lower intensity is more effective for inflammation and healing. High intensity is however good for analgesia so THOR have both high and low intensity lasers / LEDs. Read more here 3B vs Class IV Lasers
From what I understand the LED lights can be used if you are targetting tissues that are less than 1cm deep, this includes; inflammation, oedema, and injury. The laser can be used for anything deeper than 1cm and also for analgesia- to reduce the pain that is being caused by nerves. So the diagnosis your doggy has had will determine the type of therapy you give and for how long. Do you know what is wrong with her spine?

On pulses: Thor states that pulses above 100Hz have the same biological effect as continuous treatment. In traumatic brain injury pulses worked better. They also recommend 2.5Hz pulse for improving tissue repair and reducing inflammation, but continuous for analgesia and tender points where inhibition of nerves is the objective. Bear in mind that those dosages may be specific to their machine, each manufacturer will have different recommendations.

It seems that photobiomodulation can have fantastic effects when given in the correct dose, however, if the dosage is not correct then it may have no effect at all, or actually have negative effects, see here and here for dosage info and here for the Arndt- Schulz which shows:
"The Arndt-Schultz Law is frequently quoted as a suitable model to describe dose-dependant effects of LLLT 1, 2, 3, 4. The Arndt-Schultz Law states that “weak stimuli increases physiologic activity, moderate stimuli inhibit activity, and very strong stimuli abolish activity”5, 6, 7. Simply put; a small stimulus may have no biological effect, a moderate stimulus may have a biostimulatory effect, a large stimulus may have an bioinhibitory or even cytotoxic effect. In the context of LLLT the increasing “stimulus” may be irradiation time or it may be increased beam intensity (irradiance). A biphasic response has been demonstrated many times in LLLT research 8,9,10 This non-linear effect contradicts the Bunsen-Roscoe rule of reciprocity which predicts that if the products of time of exposure time and irradiance are equal, then the quantities of material undergoing change will be equal. This inverse linear relationship between intensity and time has frequently failed in LLLT research.4,11. "

The whole dosage portion of the lecture was very complicated for me as I don't have a background in maths or physics, so, unfortunately, I can't explain it. Fortunately though, there are plenty of research papers online, so if you have an idea of the pathology that your pet has then you may be able to search on pub med to find a specific treatment protocol, for example: "arthritis spine dog photobiomodulation therapy" or "disc degeneration in dogs low-level laser therapy/ led light therapy".

Here is a run-down on what to look for when buying a device: Measuring the Power of Light Therapy Devices and also this list of articles for you to pick from: Everything You Need To Know About Red Light Therapy . And a relatively simple interview with Dr Michael Hamblin- light expert.

There is Thor but they are super expensive, I did see a device on eBay for £2000 the other day, there is also Joov, red light man and probably some others too. I hope this helps.


FOTCM Member
Thanks for sharing what you had, and I'm in the same boat trying to understand these things better. Our girl has been getting treatments pretty regularly from two separate vets with slightly different systems; I've paid attention to how the treatments are done by them, and one uses, more or less, insertion/origin points (as understood) while the other works more generally.

Do you know what is wrong with her spine?
She is 11 yrs. and her developed issue points to a spondylosis off her midway spine towards her rear (so nerves involved), which was picked up last year by x-ray when she was in a bad way. Benefits of laser seem to be increased blood flow, reduced inflammation and overall movement. However, some gentle manipulations (massage like) along her spine may in fact equally help, and perhaps even more for her condition.

I'll do some checking on the links provided. :thup:
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