Can Red Light Therapy Help Heal Your Dog’s ACL?

When it comes to the health and well-being of your dog, there probably aren’t many things you’re not willing to try — especially if your dog has a sudden injury that greatly impacts his quality of life.

Just like people, dogs can suffer a torn or ruptured ACL. In people, the ACL, or anterior cruciate ligament, is the thin tissue in the middle of the knee. In dogs, this same connective tissue is called the cranial cruciate ligament, or CCL.

Your dog’s CCL connects his tibia (the bone below the knee) to his femur (the bone just above the knee). It’s common for pet owners and even veterinary professionals to refer to the CCL as the ACL when speaking about injuries in dogs.

If you’ve been unlucky enough to tear your own ACL, you know this injury is no picnic, and it’s likely your dog is in a lot of pain. As a dedicated pet parent, your primary objective is probably to make your dog as comfortable and pain-free as possible.

In addition to listening to your vet and following prescribed treatment protocols, you might also consider an emerging therapy — red light therapy for dogs’ ACL injuries.

How Red Light Therapy Works

Red light therapy uses medically optimized wavelengths of red light to penetrate the skin and stimulate changes on a cellular level. Studies have shown that red light therapy can aid in muscle recovery from strenuous workouts or injuries in humans. This feature has made it a popular therapy option for athletes.

Red light therapy is thought to help with muscle recovery because it:

  1. Improves blood flow to and from muscles, helping eliminate waste faster
  2. Stimulates cell regeneration, leading to enhanced healing of damaged cells
  3. Energizes the mitochondria of the cells, helping stimulate cell growth and healing
  4. Reduces inflammation and swelling of the affected areas

Red light therapy may also reduce pain and soreness, making it easier to rest and relax during the healing process.

Infographic: Can Red Light Therapy Help Heal Your Dog’s ACL?

Can Red Light Therapy Help Dogs’ ACL Injuries?

While a large and growing body of research shows the positive effects of red light therapy on human cells, more research is needed to test red light therapy for dog’s ACL injuries. 

Not many studies examine the effects of red light therapy specifically on pets like dogs and cats. But as phototherapy gains popularity in veterinary medicine, more researchers are considering the benefits of this innovative technology and hypothesizing many possible applications for helping animals.

Concerned pet parents are also pushing the advancement of red light therapy for dogs’ ACL injuries and many other health conditions. Even if a vet has never considered this treatment, that doesn’t mean their patients’ owners haven’t. And keeping in mind that red light therapy is generally considered safe for people and pets, many vets and pet parents are willing to experiment with it.

For example, the Amazon reviews for this light therapy pain-relief device by LED Technologies include a review by a user who bought the device to use on their dog’s torn ACL. The reviewer wrote that after using red light therapy on the Aussie, the dog hadn’t limped for six weeks.

In addition to anecdotal evidence like this user’s review, there is a growing body of clinical evidence that red light therapy is an effective treatment option to help heal dogs’ injuries, reduce pain, and improve mobility, all of which could benefit an injured ACL.

We couldn’t find any clinical studies looking specifically at red light therapy for dogs’ ACL injuries. However, many veterinarians have started incorporating this therapy into their practice, and some are using it for canine ACL treatment. Sometimes holistic veterinarians, such as Dr. Terry Wood in Oklahoma, embrace red light therapy more readily as a treatment option for orthopedic problems in dogs. Dr. Wood has been using red light therapy for over 15 years, including on dogs with ACL injuries.

Adoption of red light therapy is rapidly expanding among veterinary practices, and as more evidence becomes available, the therapy will likely become a mainstream treatment in veterinary medicine.

So, Should You Try Red Light Therapy on Your Dog’s ACL?

The bottom line is that red light therapy is a legitimate, though new, treatment option for many health conditions. Because it reduces pain, swelling, and inflammation and speeds up the healing process, it could be a viable option to help your dog heal from a minor or moderate ACL tear.

Red light therapy using light-emitting diodes (LEDs) is also a safe treatment that appears to have few or no side effects. So even if it doesn’t work, you don’t have to worry about causing further injury.

The lack of definitive studies proving red light therapy will help your dog’s ACL might leave you feeling skeptical. A certain amount of skepticism is healthy, and it’s a good idea to do your research.

We also recommend speaking with your dog’s veterinarian before starting a new treatment. Your vet knows your dog’s full medical history and is familiar with his current treatment regimen. They can advise you on treatment protocols and how best to care for your dog as his ACL heals.

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