Barbara Lawlor
The Mountain Ear, Nederland, Colorado

For the past year, Marley, a 6-year-old Bernese Mountain Dog, has been in pain. Her owners John and Joy Rector don’t know how she was injured, but they have been treating the inflammation in her spine and hips with Rimadyl, a popular anti-inflamatory for pets. In recent months, Marley was so incapacitated that she had to be lifted into the back of the Rectors’ car. She was lethargic and unhappy.

Veterinarian Dr. Joe Evans of the Nederland Veterinary Hospital has been treating both Marley and the Rector’s other dog, Ziggy, since they were puppies. Last week, Doc Joe started Marley on a new treatment plan incorporating the application of laser therapy.

“Marley had three short treatments with remarkable results,” Joy Rector said. “The first treatment gave her pain relief and she showed less stiffness. By the time she had three treatments, the stiffness and immobility were gone, her pain discomfort was gone and she was happy to get back to her daily mountain hikes, playing and running around with her buddy Ziggy.” On Monday afternoon, after her last treatment, Marley jumped into the back of her car. The treatment was painless, drug-free, surgery-free and affordable. The Rectors rave about the results, saying the therapy treatments have fixed her, healed her and turned her back into a happy camper.

On Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 7 and 8, laser treatment pet patients came in one after another. As pet owners are spreading the word, Doc Joe said he is going to need to get his staff laser certified so he can keep up with his surgeries. Laser treatment is not a new miracle cure, but it is just recently appearing in the veterinary world.

Doc Joe has been a vet in Nederland for 35 years and said that mountain living is harder on dogs than those who live in the city. As they get older, many active dogs become arthritic and suffer from hip and spine inflammation.

About three years ago, laser therapy was being discussed for use in sports injuries to humans. Eventually the technology was fine tuned to provide the protocol for effective treatment on animals as well as humans. Known as the Class IV deep tissue laser therapy, the treatment uses a beam of laser light to penetrate tissue without damaging it. This energy produces a biological response in the cells, or photo-bio-modulation, which reduces inflammation, reduces pain and increases healing speed. Most treatments last about 12 minutes and vary in cost. The therapy has also proven to be successful in treating post-surgical pain, wounds, infections, cuts, bits degenerative joint disease, hip dysplasia, feline acne, tendonitis, and inflammatory bowel disease, without medication, without surgery.

When treating an animal using pain medication, one always worries about the side effects — the damage to the kidneys and liver. Evans said that not only is the treatment safe, but it is cost effective. The average price of one treatment is $40. With the usual application of three visits, the cost is less than a bottle of pain medication.

Doc Joe said that chronic painful inflammatory conditions in larger dogs is not a case of if, it is a case of when, they will occur. He is so convinced of its healing powers and its safety that he treated himself after rotator cuff surgery. He was told to keep his arm in a sling for five weeks, but within a week of laser therapy, he is able to raise his arm above his head without pain and with full range of motion. “This will be great,” Doc Joe said. “It helps prevent cellular degeneration and stimulates new growth. With the new protocol, it is idiot proof.”

He demonstrated how one sets the appropriate dials for the specific patient and the laser device to the appropriate depth. He said he has been working on purchasing the equipment for the past six months and just set it up two weeks ago. The first treatment was given to an old beagle whose owner came in to buy some Rimadyl. At first he wasn’t interested in it, but Evans convinced him to give it a try. The next day, the owner brought his beagle in for another treatment, saying the dog walked upstairs on his own for the first time in 18 months.

Steve Greenwald has been fighting an infection in his dog since August. It just kept coming back. The laser treatment “blew it out of the water,” Evans said, and cleaned up the dead cellular mass.

He has approached the chiropractor and physician team Mike and Cathy Camarata about the possibilities of offering laser treatment to their patients. “This is a case of how a healthcare provider can become a healer,” Evans said.

On Saturday, Dr. Rob Ramey brought his 11-year-old yellow lab in for her fourth treatment. Sasha is an athletic dog who, after a day of running through deep snow while Ramey skied, began favoring her left, rear leg. Ramey said, “I am a skeptic. When Doc Joe told me about this, I dug into literature and researched results. Laser therapy appears to be most recent of the evolution of inflammation treatment. First there was ice and heat, then ultrasound and now laser. It is new to me but I thought we should give it a try.” Sasha stood on the examining table while Doc Joe ran the laser device along her spine, around her hips. She seemed relaxed and unconcerned about the treatment. The laser beam feels warm, but is comes from the inside, not from the skin. Ramey said the treatment is an example of how, as we become older, there is more technology to help us maintain our younger physical standards. He said giving an animal anti-inflammatory medicine has a systemic effect on pain but doesn’t treat the underlying cause or the local area where the pain is occurring.

Doc Joe said, “Probably my own mortality goaded me into this venture.” Joy Rector said the treatment has been a miracle for her dog. “Fellow dog owners should go see Joe and check this treatment out. We are so happy that Joe brought the latest veterinary technology to Nederland, and Marley is too.”

Nederland Town Hall Employee Geneva Mixon said her dog, Mr. Moose, a 9-½-year old greyhound, pitbull, great dane mix with a brindle coat was a rescue pup from the Boulder Valley Humane Society. She adopted him as an adult about eight or so years ago, a gift for her 30th birthday. Mr. Moose has been bothered by arthritis in his right hip and knee. A very energetic and somewhat large, 70-pound dog, his arthritis has been getting slowly worse for the past few years. He takes 75 milligrams of rymadil, kind of like a doggy Celebrex-anti-inflammatory, every day for about a year. “The laser treatment has eased his discomfort somewhat, and has enabled me to cut the dose on his anti-inflammatory in half. That is easier for his liver and easier on my pocket book. I intend to get the treatment biweekly or so for maintenance. I feel that if we had been able to start when he was younger it would have slowed the degeneration.”

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