If you're looking to add services that benefit your patients and improve your bottom line, consider laser therapy. With more
veterinary surgery options available and with pets living longer—and, thus, experiencing more chronic conditions—it's important
that practices eye ways to improve healing and pain management.
Dr. Jeff Werber, owner of Century Veterinary Group in Los Angeles and a Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member, has been using a therapeutic laser in his practice for two years. When he first spoke to
a laser manufacturer representative, he says, he was intrigued but unconvinced. After all, his practice already offered acupuncture,
which he'd found to be an effective complementary pain treatment.
So Dr. Werber consulted a colleague who belonged to the American Academy of Pain Management (AAPM). She was overwhelmingly
positive about this new modality. Class IV therapeutic lasers are FDA-approved and considered to be of minimal risk to both
patient and operator. Plus, they're nontoxic and are associated with essentially no side effects. A small veterinary unit
today costs between $15,000 and $18,000.
FIGURING THE COSTS
When Dr. Werber purchased his laser, the vendor also provided accessories such as safety glasses, along with training for
his staff. Unlike acupuncture, laser therapy doesn't have to be performed by a veterinarian in the state of California, freeing
up doctor time. While some practices sell laser therapy packages at a rate of $250 to $450 for six to 10 treatments, Dr. Werber
prefers to sell individual treatment sessions. He informs clients that most cases require four to five sessions but that he's
seen results after just one or two.
Dr. Werber charges about half his acupuncture fee for a laser therapy session. Why so much less? He says that the initial
training costs are significantly lower, that the therapy doesn't have to be performed by a veterinarian, and that he wants
the benefits to be available to as many of his patients as possible. And there hasn't been a problem convincing clients to
give it a go. "Like the acupuncture and nutraceuticals we offer, clients see this as a natural approach," Dr. Werber says.
QUICK PAYOFF, BEAMING CLIENTS
The equipment paid for itself quickly—within about 10 months, Dr. Werber says—despite the steep initial discount he offered
to familiarize his clients with the service. His practice currently uses the unit several times a day, and he's received great
feedback from clients.
"One of my clients came in with her Bichon Frise—it was limping and had joint inflammation due to patellar luxation," Dr.
Werber says. "She couldn't convince her husband to do surgery, but they agreed to try laser therapy and acupuncture. By chance,
my associate was off the day of the first treatment, so we just did the laser therapy. She came back for the second treatment
with a big smile on her face. She said her dog was running up and down the stairs for the first time in two months."
WHEN AND HOW IT WORKS
Dr. Werber uses his therapeutic laser to treat cauda equina conditions, arthritis, and cases of acute inflammation, and he
uses it postsurgically to improve healing. The therapy itself is simple to perform, he says. You identify the area to be treated,
push a button or two, and the unit adjusts the setting accordingly, making it easy for any member of the technical staff to
Dr. Werber suggests speaking with other veterinarians who offer the service in your area to learn what they think about their
equipment and get an idea of the receptiveness of local pet owners. You also can request a demonstration from a local salesperson
to look at a particular laser unit. And finally, contact distributors to see if there are any deals to be had. You may be
one step closer to making patients more comfortable—and your bottom line more robust.