They're our playmates, our companions, and these days most people consider pets part of the family. So when they hurt, so do we.
And just as we're living longer, so are they. Today's pets suffer from arthritis and various degenerative conditions, same as their human owners, which is why veterinarians are pleased to have a new pain-fighting tool in their arsenal.
It came just in the nick of time for Candace Leibold's 15-year-old cocker spaniel, Lexxi. When Lexxi's liver function started failing, Leibold had to take her off the medicine she was using to treat her arthritis.
Leibold says the result was immediately apparent.
"We started noticing she was having a lot of discomfort. She was barely able to move. She wasn't able to sit comfortably. She wasn't able to lay down comfortably," Leibold said.
Leibold thought it might be the end for one of the two dogs she's had since they were puppies. Says Leibold,"I couldn't watch her be in that much pain and I didn't know if that was the end of the road for us or not."
But veterinarian Brian Whitten at Country Chase Veterinary in Tampa had something new to try. It's called the K-Laser, an infra-red treatment that Dr. Whitten says works at the cellular level.
"We're helping the tissue to repair itself. And we're also getting rid of inflammatory problems. We're also decreasing pain. So the pain that is going up to your brain, telling you that you're painful, we're also inhibiting that pathway," he explained.
We watched as Dr. Whitten performed a treatment on Lexxi, moving the beam slowly around each hip joint and a portion of her spine, where she also has degenerative changes.
We have to wear special glasses, but Dr. Whitten says there's no discomfort for Lexxi.
"If Lexxi's feeling anything right now, it's just a really mild heat sensation," Whitten said.
The manufacturer of the K-Laser says it can take a few treatments for pets to respond, but Leibold says she noticed a remarkable change in Lexxi within 48 hours.
"It's amazing, to say the least. Within 48 hours she was chasing our younger dog, Levi, down the street," Leibold said.
The founder of Country Chase Veterinary, Dr. Jane Boston, introduced the K-Laser into the practice. She still uses an array of mainstream pharmaceuticals to manage pain, along with nutraceuticals and acupuncture.
Most of my patients come from the Western medicine side. We've tried this and this and this and my dog's still painful or my cat's still painful. Is there anything else? And usually we have very good success," Boston said.
Lexxi has had acupuncture too. But Dr. Whitten is convinced the K-Laser is making the difference for her.
"The turnaround from not being able to get up to complete mobility and running around was pretty astounding. The more I use the unit, the more impressed I am with it," Whitten said.
So is Candace Leibold, and grateful to find relief for her beloved Lexxi.
"I've got my dog back. She's doing great," Candance said.
The K-Laser runs $45 per treatment at Country Chase, but is discounted in a package, which is how it's recommended. Typical treatment protocol is three treatments the first week, two
treatments the second week, then once a week thereafter. It can be used on cats, dogs, horses, birds...pretty much any animal.
For more information on the K-Laser and other pain treatments for pets: