COLLINSVILLE — At first, Maureen Blumberg thought her dog had torn a ligament in his leg. Cooper, her Yellow Labrador Retriever, was suddenly not himself and was not running and jumping like he used to.
"We really don't know," said Blumberg, who lives near O'Fallon. "They thought he had a torn ACL, at first, and he does have arthritis in his knees. So with a combination of those things, he just wasn't getting around great and he is only two years old."
That's when Blumberg's veterinarian at Northgate Small Animal Hospital in Collinsville suggested laser therapy. Cooper went under the laser three times a week. After the first week, Blumberg saw her dog beginning to return to his old self.
"After the first three treatments, I saw a lot of improvement," she said. "Before, he couldn't even jump up on and off the couch. He is back to jumping by himself, now."
Northgate Small Animal Hospital, at 1497 Vandalia St. in Collinsville, opened in September 1995 and purchased the Class IV Laser last summer for about $11,000. The hospital's veterinary technicians were trained how to use the laser to help treat dogs and cats with pain from arthritis and other injuries.
Sometimes referred to as "cold laser therapy," it is a non-invasive procedure that uses light to stimulate cells and increase blood circulation. This process is known as photo-biotherapy, which stimulates protein synthesis and cell metabolism by improving cell health and function. Northgate Small Animal Hospital veterinarian Amy Edgar said this laser therapy can help reduce pain.
"Basically, in a nutshell, it is administered light to troubled spots of pain inflammation and wounds," Edgar said. "It basically super charges those cells and the vet gets the pain inflammation down quicker. It helps heal the pain from arthritis for dogs that have had wounds, bite wounds or if they got hit by a car and have an abrasion."
Lasers have been used in Europe for therapy for the past 30 years. The Food and Drug Administration approved the first U.S. company to provide Class IV Laser therapy in 2003.
The University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Urbana-Champaign has seen the Class IV Laser advance and enhance healing capabilities in animals and humans. Kim Knap, a rehabilitation specialist at the U of I's vet hospital, said this laser therapy has proven to helps treat arthritis pain and quicken healing.
"We use it for significant arthritis and neurological functions in rehabilitation practices," Knap said. "We also use it widely for wound healing and pain control for significant dental disease."
K-Laser USA in Franklin, Tenn. was cleared by the FDA to provide this laser therapy in March 2005 and has sold several thousand Class IV lasers to practitioners around the world. Phil Harrington, manager of education and clinical support at K-Laser USA, said K-Laser USA was the first to exhibit this laser at a veterinary conference in 2006. He also said the role of lasers has rapidly expanded in the veterinary and human health industry during the past decade.
"The laser industry has grown exponentially in the veterinary and human market to the point now where we started with one 10-by-10-foot booth at the trade show and now laser therapy is a major player with several 20-by-20-foot booth islands at the trade show," Harrington said. "We're attracting a lot of attention from pharmaceutical companies."
Edgar said the therapy has been widely used and well received at the metro-east animal hospital.
"We use it quite frequently," Edgar said. "We use it after surgery for pain on the surgery site. Some come in a few times a week for arthritis pain."
Belleville resident Maribeth Wissehr took both of her dogs to the Collinsville animal hospital for laser treatment last year. Her Border Collie, Nora, and Australian Shepherd, Katie, received laser therapy last August, September and October.
"My Border Collie has a skin condition and received treatment on her front elbows," Wissehr said. "It seemed to help tremendously with the itching and everything related to that an it cleared that up. My Australian Shepherd has had some knee surgery on her right rear leg last year. It helped to break down the scar tissue and give her more mobility and she did really well with that. In fact, we want to take her back for more because she had surgery on the other leg for the same thing. So we were very pleased with the result."
Blumberg is also thrilled with the results and is happy to have her dog healthy again.
"He went from walking with a really bad limp to running and chasing our new puppy," she said. "It's like a night and day difference."
Contact reporter Will Buss at email@example.com or 239-2526.