When it comes to your dog, you probably do everything you possibly can to make sure he’s happy and healthy. You feed him a well-balanced diet, take him for walks every day, and give him plenty of love and attention. But what do you do when your dog is diagnosed with a medical condition that no amount of healthy food, fun walks, or snuggles can cure?
Conditions like hip dysplasia, osteoarthritis, chronic kidney disease, and inflammation are complex problems that can be tough to treat. Fortunately, the world of veterinary medicine has come a long way. And new discoveries are made every day.
One of these recent discoveries is red light therapy for dogs. Red light therapy is already used to treat multiple conditions in humans, including acne, scars, burns, arthritis, tendinitis, dental pain, and hair loss, and it’s being studied as a treatment for even more conditions, including dementia.
Encouragingly, research indicates that this relatively new therapy can be just as effective in our canine companions. But you might have questions. For example, since it involves the use of fairly bright light, will red light therapy hurt a dog’s eyes? Let’s look into it.
What Is Red Light Therapy?
Before we get into specifics, it can be helpful to understand exactly what red light therapy is and how it aids in the healing process of so many different types of medical issues.
You may have heard mitochondria called the powerhouse of the cell. That’s because mitochondria produce energy for your body in the form of adenosine triphosphate, or ATP. Red light therapy exposes your skin to a low level of red or near-infrared (NIR) light, which the mitochondria in your skin cells absorb and use to create more ATP. This additional energy stimulates beneficial cellular processes, like healing and collagen production, which support an enormous array of applications.
Does Red Light Therapy Help Dogs?
Red light therapy has been so beneficial for people that it’s no wonder the veterinary community started exploring its possible benefits for animals. Researchers have looked into the effects of red light therapy on dogs, including its safety and likelihood of producing real, lasting results.
Study after study has shown that not only is red light therapy safe for dogs, it’s also highly effective in treating many troubling health problems.
Various clinical trials demonstrate that red light therapy can treat dogs who suffer from elbow osteoarthritis, inflamed paw lesions, and hair loss. One study even found that dogs who had red light therapy before bone surgery experienced faster healing times, even though the dogs who received the therapy were older than the placebo group.
The Safety of Red Light Therapy
There are a few harmful myths about red light therapy that it’s important to debunk. The first is that the light can burn your skin, but the low levels of heat produced in LED light therapy are not nearly high enough to cause any damage to skin.
Another myth is that red light therapy uses the same type of light found in a tanning booth, but that’s also not true. Sun lamps and tanning booths use ultraviolet (UV) radiation, the same type emitted by the sun. These rays damage skin, cause premature aging, and increase risk of skin cancer. Red light therapy does not expose skin to any UV rays and does not cause any damage.
Will Red Light Therapy Hurt Your Eyes?
In the same way that some believe red light therapy can burn your skin, some worry that it can damage your eyes. While certain light wavelengths and strengths warrant caution when used near the eyes, some studies actually show that red light therapy can help heal the eyes.
Red and NIR wavelengths of light can improve eye health by increasing the blood flow behind the eyes. Multiple studies have also shown that red light therapy can help heal retinal damage, decrease inflammation, and reduce retinal degeneration.
Remember how the mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell? One study found that when the eye’s mitochondria absorb deep red and NIR light, participants’ eyesight significantly improved. This treatment method could be used for certain types of blindness as well as for diabetic macular oedema, a common cause of decreased vision in people with diabetes.
NIR light has even been used to heal brain damage caused by stroke and other injury.
Some research indicates that blue light therapy could pose a theoretical risk for people with certain eye conditions or on certain medications. Because of this, the Neutrogena Light Therapy Acne Mask was voluntarily recalled by the company “out of an abundance of caution.” However, the same risk does not exist with red light therapy.
Will Red Light Therapy Hurt a Dog’s Eyes?
The big question now is, will red light therapy hurt a dog’s eyes? We already know that red light therapy is a safe, effective treatment for humans and that it’s been used to treat multiple conditions in dogs. But have there been any reports of adverse effects on canine eye health?
We were unable to find any clinical studies researching red light therapy and canine ocular health specifically. However, existing studies on red light therapy for other conditions show no evidence that red light therapy would hurt a dog’s eyes.
We did locate some industry websites that state red light therapy can improve eyesight and peripheral vision in dogs and that dogs are completely unbothered by the therapy because their eyes aren’t sensitive to red light.
When in Doubt, Contact Your Vet
Before starting any new medical treatment or therapy for your dog, always consult with your veterinarian. This is especially important if your dog has a pre-existing condition that affects eye health or vision. A professional can evaluate whether red light therapy is likely to hurt your dog’s eyes.
At this time, veterinarians have mixed views about using red light therapy in their offices, which is understandable with a relatively new therapy. More research is coming out all the time, however, and adoption of the technology is spreading among veterinary practices.