What is PBMT?

Photobiomodulation Treatment (PBMT), more commonly known as cold laser therapy, stimulates cellular activity that improves the speed and quality of healing. It has been used safely as a therapeutic tool for over 30 years.  In over 1,800 publications worldwide, PBMT has demonstrated its non-invasive, non-toxic quality, and its ability to augment and in some cases, replace, pharmaceuticals and surgical intervention. PBMT is most often used as a primary medical treatment, but is also effective when combined with other therapeutic treatments, such as needle acupuncture and chiropractic adjustment.

Veterinarians currently use PBMT for a variety of issues; including the treatment of:

  • acute pain (soft tissue injury)
  • chronic degenerative conditions (arthritis)
  • neurological conditions
  • improving the speed of healing of:
    • burns
    • skin allergies
    • anal gland issues
    • hot spots
    • ear infections
  • oral conditions such as:
    • gingivitis
    • extractions
  • surgical pain management
  • intraoperative pain management
  • orthopedic issues concerning:
    • fractures
    • muscle injuries
    • tendon and ligament injuries
    • ACL tears
    • luxating patella injuries


When PBMT is used for an acute conditions such as an arthritis flare up, soft tissue injury, or hot spots, it should performed in an “induction” phase of every day or every other day, then 2 to 3 times weekly until the condition resolves.

When it is used for a chronic condition, such as osteoarthritis, post ACL surgery or rheumatoid arthritis, there are three phases of treatment.

INDUCTION PHASE: When a chronic pain condition is first diagnosed, a multi-modal pain regiment should be followed. When starting PBMT, more frequent treatment sessions are recommended (every other day until a significant effect is seen). Pets with severe conditions or multiple joint involvements, improvement might not be noticed for 7-10 sessions. Once significant improvement is noted, then the “transition” phase should begin.

TRANSITION PHASE: During this time treatments are reduced to twice weekly, then once weekly, and possibly from once weekly eventually over time to once every 6 weeks. Each patient should be evaluated individually. For example, say the pet is receiving treatments once weekly and is doing fine, and then treatments are reduced to twice monthly. The owner then notices painful behavior after the 10th day without a treatment. At this point the best plan seems to be that the pet should continue to have treatments once weekly or once every 9 days.

MAINTENANCE PHASE: The “maintenance” phase is the regular long term treatment of the chronic state of pain. It is something that for the best outcome should be done regularly. PBMT does not “cure” a condition. Treatments are based on clinical signs. If treatment is stopped because the pet seems better, eventually pain will return and a “mini re-induction” phase will need to begin again. This is why maintenance is so important.

One of the benefits of continuing PBMT in a maintenance phase is that you can potentially decrease the dosage or frequency of chronic pain medications, especially N-SAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). Weaning of these medications should not be done until the regular schedule of maintenance therapy is established. It is important to change only one factor at a time. The reduction in the amount of medication is decided by the doctor.