Red light therapy produces some amazing results for humans. Studies show benefits like clearer skin, improved mood and reduced joint pain.
But what about our furry friends? Can light therapy successfully treat their ailments as well?
Research seems to indicate that yes, red light therapy for dogs is just as effective as it is for humans!
What Is Light Therapy?
Light therapy, also known as phototherapy or low-level laser therapy (LLLT), is a type of medical treatment that uses specific wavelengths of light to produce beneficial responses in the body.
Most often, light therapy involves the use of light emitting diodes (LEDs) that produce wavelengths of red, blue, green or full-spectrum light to shine on the relevant area of the body. Light therapy treatments can take place in clinical settings or at home with specially developed devices.
Research has shown that light therapy can reduce inflammation, mitigate seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and treat acne in humans. It can also help address hair loss, poor sleep quality and canker sores.
One common type of phototherapy is red light therapy, which uses wavelengths of red light to produce a wide range of effects. These include but are not limited to increased collagen production, accelerated wound healing and decreased inflammation and swelling.
Is Light Therapy Safe and Effective for Dogs?
Hundreds of studies have shown that light therapy is safe and effective for humans, but does this extend to dogs?
Fortunately, the answer is yes! Let’s take a look at some of the research.
One 2018 study examined the effectiveness of red light therapy for dogs with elbow osteoarthritis. Researchers used near-infrared light wavelengths for dogs suffering from the condition and recorded each dog’s lameness score, pain score and dosage of pain medication needed.
All three areas showed significant improvement compared to dogs exposed to placebo light. In fact, after six weeks of treatment 82% of dogs in the near-infrared light therapy group required at least 50% less medication and ranked lower on pain scores. None of the dogs in the placebo group showed improvement.
No one wants to see a beloved pet suffer, so this study is great news for owners of breeds prone to osteoarthritis (OA).
Another study from 2017 evaluated the use of red light therapy on dogs before they underwent bone surgery. Some dogs in the study received treatment with near-infrared light wavelengths before the procedure while others received a placebo.
Eight weeks after their surgeries, more dogs from the red light therapy group had healed than from the placebo group. The researchers noted that this was true despite the fact that the red light therapy group was older and than the placebo group.
Additionally, a 2016 study showed that inflamed paw lesions (sterile pyogranulomatous pododermatitis) can respond well to light therapy, healing faster and recurring less often than with conventional treatment. Another small study from 2015 successfully treated hair loss (noninflammatory alopecia) in seven dogs.
No adverse side effects were reported in any of the studies.
What Conditions Can Red Light Therapy for Dogs Treat?
Just like humans, dogs can benefit from red light therapy in a variety of ways. While it won’t cure everything, red light therapy for dogs can treat quite a few conditions, including:
- Hip dysplasia
- Joint pain
- Back pain
- Sore or injured muscles
- Chronic kidney disease
- Surgical scars
- Skin conditions, like dandruff
While research is ongoing, pet owners and veterinarians are achieving encouraging results with red light therapy for dogs (and other animals!). The results of treatment with red light therapy will vary from dog to dog, depending upon the severity of their health condition and other factors.
Red Light Therapy Products Available for Dogs
The light therapy market for pets is considerably less developed than certain sections of the light therapy market for humans. Many devices for treating seasonal affective disorder and a range of skin conditions in humans, for example, have been available at a variety of price points for some time.
Red light therapy products for dogs will likely become much more common in the near future as the benefits of light therapy become more well known. Along with its potential benefits, red light therapy’s lack of side effects makes it an ideal treatment for beloved household pets.
With that in mind, here are a two products that are available on the market today.
LumaSoothe is a light therapy device for both dogs and cats. Its noninvasive, low-level infrared and red light therapy can be used at home. LumaSoothe comes with two different modules, one for deep tissue and one for surface treatment.
The deep tissue module can increase circulation, decrease inflammation and promote tissue healing. It can also relieve pain associated with arthritis, hip dysplasia and other joint and muscular disorders.
The surface treatment module addresses pet skin conditions such as eczema and dermatitis and can also promote skin healing after surgery.
B-Cure Laser Vet
The B-Cure Laser Vet comes with a heftier price tag but has also been specifically studied in several clinical trials. The B-Cure Laser Vet uses near-infrared light to help alleviate pain and accelerate healing. It is appropriate for treating a number of conditions, including:
- Hip dysplasia
- Joint, neck and back pain
- Inflamed tendons
- Facial nerve paralysis
- Gum inflammation
- Ear infections
- Ruptured anal sacs and fistulas
Consult With Your Veterinarian
Red light therapy for dogs is a relatively new field of research. The studies to date show considerable promise, but it’s still a good idea to check with a veterinarian before treating your dog with red light therapy.
A veterinarian who has experience with light therapy will be especially knowledgeable and can make sure you’re using the treatment that’s right for your pet’s condition.