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Laser Treatment for Cats: Purpose & How It Works (Vet Answer)

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By Dr. Iulia Mihai

Cat receiving laser therapy treatment

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Dr. Iulia Mihai

DVM MSc (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Laser treatment for cats is a non-invasive and painless procedure. It has many advantages and no side effects, being used in a varied range of conditions. Laser therapy does not need additional surgical interventions or medication, and all cat breeds of all ages can benefit from it.

The most common medical conditions that laser treatment is used for in cats include pain, inflammation, swellings (edema), and superficial lesions (e.g., burns).

Laser emission has rapid effects on inflammation, reducing it by stimulating blood and lymphatic flow and inducing the reabsorption of extracellular fluids. Secondary to this effect, pain can also be alleviated. The pain diminishes after the inflammation reduces.

In this article, we discuss how laser treatment works, the different types of laser therapy, where it is used, and its advantages.

How Does It Work?

Laser therapy is also called low-level laser therapy (LLLT) or cold laser therapy (as this kind of treatment does not emit heat). The laser is a narrow beam of light (electromagnetic radiation) with a well-defined wavelength of the light spectrum.

Laser treatment uses different wavelengths depending on the type and depth of the affected tissue. The most commonly used laser devices in veterinary medicine use red or near-infrared light (wavelengths of 600–1070 nanometers) or green, blue, or violet (shorter wavelengths). The longer wavelengths are used to penetrate deeper into the tissues (muscles and bones), and the smaller ones penetrate the skin.

The light source of the laser therapy devices is placed in contact with the skin, and the photon energy penetrates the soft tissues. The emitted laser light promotes a chain of chemical reactions, known as photobiostimulation, and interacts with various intracellular biomolecules. Normal cellular functions are restored and the body’s healing processes are improved.

The laser light is applied in a targeted manner and helps the body speed up the healing process by faster regeneration of the affected cells. Therapeutic lasers pass easily through the skin, without breaking it or causing discomfort, unlike surgical lasers.

Cat receiving laser therapy treatments
Image Credit: Shannon Y, Shutterstock

What Happens During a Laser Session?

During a session, the veterinarian or vet tech will align the laser-emitting device over your cat’s painful, inflamed, or injured area. The laser light will penetrate the skin without causing pain or injury. The cells will absorb the light energy and convert it into cellular energy, reducing inflammation and suppressing pain or in the case of skin lesions, speeding the healing process. The entire procedure can take 3–10 minutes, depending on the extent of the inflammation/injury and condition. For cats with multiple affected areas or extensive skin lesions, the treatment session may last longer (approximately 30 minutes). In most situations, the treatment will extend over several sessions.

In general, acute conditions can be remedied in a single session, but chronic ones require more than one session. Cats suffering from chronic conditions usually feel better after 10 sessions. However, the number of sessions depends on the severity of your cat’s ailment and their health condition.

Laser treatment can also be used as an adjuvant treatment method in combination with medication or surgery to facilitate healing.

What Are the Different Types of Laser Treatments for Cats?

There are currently four recognized classes of lasers. They are classified based on their power (measured in milliwatts, a.k.a. mW) and level of danger. The classes are numbered as follows: 1, 1M, 2, 2M, 3R, 3B, and 4, or I, II, IIIa, IIIb, and IV.

Laser Class Description
Class I It is specific to industrial equipment that has the area of action of the laser beam completely covered, so there is no possibility of unwanted reflections. They have ≤ 0.5 mW of power. Examples are barcode scanners used in supermarkets. This laser class is the safest, as it does not require human operators to wear optical protection equipment (special glasses).
Class II


It is specific to measuring and controlling laser equipment with low powers ≤ 1mW. Examples are laser pointers, rangefinders, construction lasers, and certain therapeutic lasers. They produce a beam in the visible spectrum (400–700 nanometers). It does not require human operators to wear optical protection equipment.
Class IIIa


It is specific to laser measurement and control equipment with higher powers ≤ 5mW. This class includes therapeutic lasers, being called cold therapeutic lasers. It may accidentally cause retinal burns. It requires special training and the wearing of special protective glasses.
Class IIIb It is specific to lasers with powers ≤ 500 mW. It may cause burns to the skin or retina.
Class IV This class includes low-power and high-power lasers. High-power lasers (power ≥ 500 mW) cause thermal tissue damage (e.g., surgical lasers and military lasers). Low-power class 4 lasers do not cause tissue damage and can be used as therapeutic lasers (especially for deep tissues, such as ligaments, nerves, muscles, tendons, and cartilage).
Veterinarian laser therapy to a cat
Image Credit: Benny Marty, Shutterstock

Where Is It Used?

In veterinary medicine, laser therapy is effectively used for:

  • Immediate improvement of blood circulation
  • Reduction of inflammation and edema
  • Speeding up the healing process
  • Repair of superficial injuries
  • Fast recovery after injuries
  • Tissue regeneration
  • Pain relief
  • Oral care

Laser treatment for cats is used for various ailments, especially in musculoskeletal conditions. The most common conditions are:

  • Edema due to stasis or trauma (sprains and dislocations, possibly due to reduced lymphatic drainage)
  • Superficial injuries of various causes (wounds, ulcers, burns, and other skin conditions)
  • Neuralgia (severe pain along the path of a nerve)
  • Neuropathy (pain caused by nerve damage)
  • Intervertebral disc disease
  • Arthritis and osteoarthritis
  • Gingivitis and stomatitis
  • ENT and anal infections
  • Postoperative pain
  • Muscle pain
  • Spinal pain
  • Joint pain
  • Tendinitis

The percentage of cats that show positive results after using the laser treatment is around 90%. Laser emission has an immediate effect on pain by interfering with the transmission of the painful sensation to the higher nerve centers. However, it is less effective in treating inflammation and edema in one session, with these effects occurring only after a long period of laser treatment.

vet gives laser therapy to a cat
Image Credit: Luigi De Zotti, Shutterstock

Advantages of Laser Treatment for Cats

Over 2,500 clinical studies on humans demonstrate the effectiveness of laser therapy in various conditions, and it is approved by the FDA. In pets, laser therapy has been successfully implemented due to the multitude of advantages and the non-existent negative effects.

Advantages of laser therapy in cats:
  • It can be used as an adjuvant treatment to surgeries or medication to facilitate faster healing.
  • It helps reduce pain, including neuropathic pain, in a short time.
  • The treatment time is short—only a few minutes.
  • It is not invasive (does not damage the tissues).
  • It can be applied to cats of any age and breed.
  • It has a strong anti-inflammatory effect.
  • It does not interact with medication.
  • It has no adverse effects.
  • It is easy to apply.
  • It is not painful.
  • It is not toxic.

Disadvantages of Laser Treatment for Cats

Laser treatment for cats has no known adverse effects so far, and as a result, the disadvantages of this procedure are few to non-existent. Here are certain situations that might occur:

Disadvantages of laser therapy in cats:
  • This therapy can be expensive, especially since several sessions are generally needed to see results.
  • Cats with old injuries may feel some degree of discomfort for a few days after the laser therapy sessions.
  • In certain situations, cats may need to be sedated if they do not stay still during the session.

How Do You Know If Your Cat Is in Pain or Discomfort?

sad orange tabby cat lying down and being petted by a hand
Image Credit: Alexander Andrews, Unsplash

Cats are good at hiding their pain or suffering and usually only show it when the condition becomes chronic. A cat in pain or discomfort will show the following clinical signs:

  • Difficulty going down the stairs, out of bed, couch, etc., or when jumping on high places
  • Going to the food or water bowl but not eating or drinking
  • Abnormal posture when sitting or lying down
  • Bedtime restlessness or generalized restlessness
  • Unable to stand up or lie down
  • Excessive meowing
  • Lack of appetite
  • Lameness
  • Lethargy
  • Tremors

In these situations, it is advisable to go with your cat to a veterinary clinic. The vet will ask a few questions, perform certain investigations, and determine the medical conduct necessary to improve your cat’s condition.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Does Laser Therapy Work on Cats?

Laser treatment works for cats just as it works for humans or dogs. This therapy helps reduce inflammation by stimulating blood and lymph flow in the treated area. Once the inflammation is reduced, the pain will also be reduced. Apart from the benefits that laser therapy has in deep tissues, it can also help with superficial wounds.

What Is the Cost of Laser Therapy for Cats?

The average cost of a laser treatment session for cats can range from $25 to $40 but can be double that price or even more. The cost largely depends on your cat’s condition and the number of sessions that they need. Some veterinary clinics offer discounts if you choose several sessions.

tortoiseshell cat check by-vet
Image Credit: Sheila Fitzgerald, Shutterstock.

Is Laser Surgery Better for Cats?

Laser surgery is also called bloodless surgery. It is done with a special laser scalpel that cuts the tissues and coagulates the blood vessels at the same time. Laser surgery offers the possibility of intervention on highly vascularized tissues, such as muscles and bones.

The absence of bleeding enables a reduction of the contamination of the surgery field and greater ease of intervention. Laser surgery also helps reduce the edema of the surrounding tissues that occur after the procedure. Usually, cats that benefit from laser surgery recover faster.

Why Do Cats Love Laser Pointers?

Cats love laser pointers because they are predators that like to follow or hunt anything that moves fast around them. A rapidly moving red light could mimic the movement of a mouse or other small prey. The light also resembles an animal running to avoid its predator. Even though cats are aware that the laser pointer is not a real animal, it stimulates their predatory instincts. However, it seems that cats prefer to play with their owner who is using a laser pointer rather than with a device that emits a red light.


Laser treatment for cats is a non-invasive, painless, and non-toxic therapy. It doesn’t have side effects and can be used at any age and in any breed. The most common ailments for which laser therapy is recommended are musculoskeletal conditions, which include arthritis, muscle pain, joint pain, spinal pain, nerve pain, and intervertebral disc disease. In addition to the effects that it has on deep tissues, laser treatment can also be used superficially on the skin for burns or other lesions. A laser treatment session lasts a few minutes, and for better results, several sessions are usually recommended, especially for chronic inflammation or pain.

Featured Image Credit: Shannon Y, Shutterstock

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