Pet Care Corner: Acupuncture Meets Laser – The Best of Old and New

A monthly column presented by local experts in pet care

By Dr. Jeff Smith, DVM CVA


Dani is an energetic 6-month-old German Shepherd who came into the clinic because she was unusually lethargic and wouldn’t eat. She had a fever and a foreign body in her stomach. Molly is an 11-year-old cat who came in with vomiting and diarrhea. Gaynor is a 10-year-old Black Labrador with front leg lameness. All of these animals were treated—and their symptoms resolved—with acupuncture. But instead of using acupuncture needles, they were treated with a laser.


One of my priorities as a veterinarian is to make every animal’s experience in my clinic so positive overall that they actually want to come back! This may seem like an unrealistic goal to some, but it is one that we relentlessly pursue—and after a year in business, I believe that we succeed more often than not. Part of the secret to our success is that with everything we do, we first consider how to cause the least stress and discomfort to the animal.


With that in mind, it is apparent that placing twenty or more acupuncture needles into a cat or dog and then “requesting” they sit still for 10-15 minutes may not fall in the category of stress free … So when I met a veterinarian last spring who has been an acupuncturist for 25 years and is now exclusively doing laser acupuncture, with the same success rate as with acupuncture needles, my ears perked up. Now, in just a few minutes, I can treat an animal with virtually no stress or discomfort to them—and get the same results! We bring them into our acupuncture room, let them get comfortable, and 15 minutes later we are done! We actually have a cat patient who comes into our clinic, saunters into the acupuncture room of his own accord, and jumps up on the sofa for his laser acupuncture. He feels better after his laser treatments—and he knows it!


Another use of the laser that is different than laser acupuncture is laser therapy. Laser therapy is successfully used to: speed healing of wounds or surgical incisions by up to 60%; decrease inflammation, such as with arthritis and join pain, muscle strains, and sprains; and reduce pain. Laser therapy uses light to stimulate healing at the cellular level by increasing blood circulation and decreasing nerve sensitivity and pain. This is how I think about it: the laser stimulates the cells to become superhero cells that are healthier and do every job assigned to them better, faster, and stronger.


Cecil is one of my laser therapy success stories. Cecil is an 11-yearold cat who came to me with back pain. His back pain was so debilitating that his life had become confined to one level in his home because he would no longer go up stairs, jump, or even move around much at all. He steadily gained weight as a result, which only made his back pain worse! After just one treatment, he was jumping on the bed again, going up and down stairs, and playing like a kitten for the first time in several years. Now, one treatment every other month is all Cecil needs to keep him in running and jumping shape!


One of the places where I get the biggest win is with combined laser acupuncture and laser therapy. An application of the laser that is often overlooked is for treatment of allergies and ear infections. Allergies are rampant in our animal populations today and there are many reasons for this (come see me if you want to get to the bottom of your pet’s allergy problems). Acupuncture can treat allergies more successfully than laser therapy and laser therapy can heal ear infections faster than acupuncture, so this is one area where I like to use both healing modalities to get the biggest gains.


I believe we are in the infancy of laser technology and that in the coming years we will find many more applications for light therapy, as well as develop our laser technology so we can affect changes in the core of the body as well as the exterior. But for now, I am pleased with the results I am getting with laser acupuncture and laser therapy, both independently and combined!




Dr. Jeff Smith, DVM CVA
Vetcetera Animal Hospital
Changing the world, one pet at a time!

Sandi Tomlin-Sutker
Written by Sandi Tomlin-Sutker