Pseudoscience in veterinary circles

By Jan Tunér

The Swedish Veterinary Medical Society has published a position paper named “Alternative medical treatment methods for animals”.  Several “alternative” methods are evaluated and conclusions made. Not surprisingly, the conclusions are overall negative, which is to be expected in the field of “alternative” methods. If a method is well documented, it is no longer “alternative”. “Low level laser therapy” has its own chapter and the conclusion is also negative. But there are two arising questions:

  1. Is LLLT an “alternative” method?
  2. Is the conclusion based upon a strict analysis of available evidence?


The answer to question 1 depends on how you evaluate the available documentation, but certainly the LLLT documentation is far superior to that of crystals and magnets. The answer to question 2 is undoubtedly NO! Let us see why the author Anna Berg fails to make an honest analysis.


-       Out of the 36 references, 10 are from papers published after the year 2000, the remaining 26 are from the period 1986-1999. In the year 2000 there were some 20 papers on LLLT on PubMed, after that year some 3500 papers have been published. It is a well-known fact that studies in the 80sd and 90s used very low outputs and the reporting of parameters was poor. They are fine for historical remarks but seldom for scientific purposes.

-       One reference is given for the indication “Distraction osteogenesis” and cited as negative. This is not an obvious interpretation and the author has failed to find five additional positive studies for this indication.

-       The number of studies performed on animals such as horses, dogs and cats is indeed small, but Anna Berg quotes mice and rat papers. It is then fair to underline that there are several hundreds of studies on such animals and the author has failed to find papers by leading researchers such as Anders, Rochkind and al-Watban.

-       The part about wound healing completely misses the fact that LLLT on healthy individuals is bound to produce limited results. Current research uses genetically modified animals, e.g. rats with diabetes.

-       The part describing the classification of lasers in incorrect.

-       The current knowledge about the basic mechanisms behind laser therapy is not accounted for.


The PhD dissertation of Anna Bergs deals with heat build-up in horses when treating with carbon dioxide laser. Not very closely related to current LLLT. Ignorance may be a forgiving factor in science but bias is not.