The Use of Class IV Laser Therapy in Zoo and Wildlife Medicine
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 2013
Andrew C. Cushing, BVSc, Cert AVP (ZooMed), MRCVS; S. Emmanuelle Knafo, DVM; Noha Abou-Madi, DVM, MSc, DACZM; George Kollias, DVM, PhD, DACZM
Section of Zoological Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA


Low level laser therapy (LLLT) has been used clinically for more than 30 years,3 with a steady increase in utilization within veterinary medicine and, specifically, with exotic species4. LLLT causes photobiomodulation of tissue, leading to an increase in metabolism, accelerated healing time, pain relief, improvement in circulation and reduction of inflammation.1,2 Four classes of therapeutic laser exist, designated I–IV, with an increase in power output throughout the groups. Class IV laser systems classify any laser system that is greater than 0.5 watt, and include military anti-missile lasers. Laser therapy systems can provide up to 15,000 mW of power output, with wavelengths typically ranging from 808 nm–980 nm. These higher powers afford the delivery of an effective dose to deeper tissues, in an efficient and clinically relevant time period.

A Class IV therapy laser (Companion Therapy Laser CTL-10, LiteCure, Newark, DE, USA) was used as an adjunct to traditional management of extensive thermal burns in a Savannah monitor (Varanus exanthematicus), a keel wound in a bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) and cheek patch dermatitis in an Asian elephant (Elephas maximus). A standard schedule was used (three applications in week one, two in the second week, and once weekly thereafter). A pre-set therapeutic dose relevant to each lesion was used in each situation. Although no control cases exist for the situations described, the laser therapy appeared to reduce both healing time and inflammation compared with other clinical experiences. In particular, the affected tissue of a Savannah monitor that suffered a thermal burn demonstrated minimal wound contracture within the first 11 mo of routine wound care, before showing considerable improvement to full healing over the subsequent 4 mo with LLLT. No adverse effects attributable to the laser therapy were seen in any of these cases. Wound healing and pain management can be difficult problems to manage clinically, and laser therapy offers a non-invasive, drug-free option to aid in these cases.


The authors would like to thank LiteCure for the use of the laser equipment.

Literature Cited

1.  Bjordal, J.M., R. Lopes-Martins, J. Joensen, C. Couppe, A. E. Ljunggren, A. Stergioulas, M.I. Johnson. A systematic review with procedural assessments and meta-analysis of low level laser therapy in lateral elbow tendinopathy (tennis elbow). BMC Musculoskeletal Disord. 2008;9:75–100.

2.  Dadone, L. I., K.K. Haussler, G. Brown, M. Marsden, J. Gaynor, M.S. Johnston, D. Garelle. Successful management of acute-onset torticollis in a giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata). J Zoo Wildl Med. 2013;44:181–185.

3.  Moshkovska, T., J. Mayberry. It is time to test low level laser therapy in Great Britain. Postgrad Med J. 2005;81:436–441.

4.  Rychel, J.K., M.S. Johnston, N. G. Robinson. Zoologic companion animal rehabilitation and physical medicine. Vet Clin Exot Anim. 2011;14:131–140.


Speaker Information
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Andrew C. Cushing, BVSc, Cert AVP (ZooMed), MRCVS
Section of Zoological Medicine
College of Veterinary Medicine
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY, USA

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