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Veterinary care with a beam of light

-  Local animal hospital uses laser technology for surgical and therapeutic treatment


Dr. Paul Haughom uses state-of -the-art technology to treat patients with a multitude of medical conditions. He also is utilizing a less invasive method for surgical procedures.

It’s just a shame he only treats animals.

“We use a Lumenis Class IV CO2 Laser for all surgeries,” said Haughom, DVM, and owner of Wildwood Animal Hospital in East Multnomah County. “It virtually eliminates all bleeding, because the laser seals the small blood vessels during surgery. There’s no swelling and less pain, because the laser seals the nerve endings. A lot of the animals don’t even notice the incision afterwards.” by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Dr. Paul Haughom introduced the use of a surgical laser at Wildwood Animal Hospital in 2004. Haughom also uses a therapeutic laser to treat inflammatory conditions like chronic arthritis.

Laser technology is hardly new. They are common in the treatment of cancer, as well as in the communications and target guidance systems used by the military.

But in the veterinary world, the use of both surgical and therapeutic lasers has proven effective in treating ailments and improving the quality of life for our furry friends.

Haughom is a triple graduate of Oregon State University. He completed his undergraduate in Corvallis, as well as his masters and finally, his DVM. He holds the distinction of being among the first graduating class to complete OSU’s full veterinary school.

“When we started, there wasn’t even a school,” Haughom said, laughing. “All our classes were in the poultry science building. That was kind of weird.”

Haughom graduated in 1983 and spent two years in practice in Hawaii. He moved to Portland in 1985 and purchased Wildwood Animal Hospital in 1986. Following an expansion of the clinic in 2004, Haughom introduced the regular use of a surgical laser.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Most skin incisions are made with a surgical laser at 11 watts of energy and produce a temperature of 700 degrees. CO2 surgical lasers produce an invisible beam of light that vaporizes the water normally found in skin and other soft tissue. It produces a clean incision, which reduces the risk of infection and often, the need for post-operative medications. Unlike a scalpel, Haughom said, surgical lasers put control in the veterinarian’s hands.

“Since there’s no bleeding during surgery, you can be very precise with what you’re doing,” Haughom explained. “You can work in small areas and remove just what needs to be removed.”

But what really gets Haughom excited is the Therapeutic Laser.

“There are so many uses for the therapeutic laser,” he said. “We can use it for everything from dermatitis to orthopedic disorders. For an animal with chronic arthritis, for example, you can see improvement in their lameness after three treatments. And there’s significant improvement after six.”

A therapeutic laser uses a beam of light to deeply penetrate the tissue. Haughom rotates the laser in a circular pattern for a specific time, which creates a warm, soothing feeling to reduce the inflammation and pain of stiff joints.

But it also helps to speed the healing in skin irritations and wounds.

“For conditions like arthritis, the Therapeutic Laser eliminates the need for long-term medications,” Haughom said. “We can also use the laser to paint an Acral Lick Dermatitis (hot spot) on a dog to stimulate the wound to heal. It takes away the pain or irritation from the area and allows it to heal.”

Laser technology in veterinary care does incur costs, Haughom said.

A routine spay or neuter, for example, runs about $20 more than if the procedure was performed using a scalpel. But when you consider the cost of long-term or post-operative medication, laser technology makes “cents.”

“For an animal with chronic arthritis, six treatments with the therapeutic laser costs around $320,” Haughom explained. “But the improvement is so rapid that we can space the treatments out after that and work with them on the cost. This is so much better for the animal. It makes my practice fun.”

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