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Ask Dr. Dave

Breck from California, writes:

Dear Dr. Dave,

In this age of endless gear, I was interested to know how you feel about the use of Class IV laser therapy and how our performance horses may benefit from them.

Dear Breck,

Thank you for your inquiry about the effectiveness of Class IV laser treatment for horses.

Laser power was originally founded in the late 1960’s. Most of us have seen or used lasers as pointers in the classroom or have heard of its use in the military. Laser is a form of light power, the wave length controlling its power and depth to which it can penetrate, making it possible to accurately focus its depth and location. Laser is able to “explode” a stone or a bone, but it can also be limited to merely a “warming” of tissue by increasing blood flow. It seems its uses are many, limited only by our imagination and experimentation.

Several decades ago laser therapy appeared in the medical field for use in such treatment of kidney stones and gall stones. More recently it has been utilized for correction in vision.

Human chiropractors began using laser for treatment of acute swelling, arthritis, joint and muscle soreness, even fibromylaia. It is thought by some that by decreasing pain and swelling, it is also possible to minimize scar formation, both in deep tissue and superficially on the skin.

Class IV laser is a high power form of laser, and has come into the horse world as a possible “wonder treatment.” Many think it does wonderful things, other wonder if it really does any good at all.

In the medical field, new treatments and new medicines are being introduced continually. People are always looking for a better way, a better treatment, and that is good. However, I try to proceed with caution, waiting for others to test the waters. If the test of time warrants investigation and if the treatment modality shows beneficial predictable results, then I will consider its use.

It has always been interesting to watch as new fads, treatments, and modalities enter into the sports world, either human or equine. The products or methods used by a winner quickly become “necessary” to add to the arsenal of the owner or trainer. Such is the case with Class IV laser. It may become the gold standard for use in athletic horses, or it may not. But until that is decided, I will probably continue to use the tried and true methods that have worked well for me in the past. It will be interesting to see if Class IV lasers become a useful modality. I certainly hope that it does, however I am not holding my breath.

Good health for you and your horse,

Dr. Dave