Gregg Veterinary Hospital uses laser surgery for pets

Published 9:37 am Sunday, June 17, 2007

VIDALIA — Man’s best friend has a progressive new option when it comes to surgical treatment.

Gregg Veterinary Hospital in Vidalia, offers laser technology, long used in human healthcare, as an alternative to traditional surgery for cats, dogs, horses and just about any type pet a person can have.

Dr. R. Justin Gregg, licensed in veterinary medicine in Louisiana and Mississippi, has offered laser treatment since September 2006, and is the only veterinary hospital within an estimated 100-mile radius that does this process. Other than Gregg, the closest location is at LSU in Baton Rouge.

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Gregg offers his customers a choice when it comes to surgery on their pets.

“Most choose the laser procedure because it is better for the animal,” he said. “The national average for opting to go with the laser is 65 percent, although it costs $75 to $95 more in most areas for this type surgery over the traditional method.”

In this area, Gregg said approximately 75 percent of his customers choose laser surgery.

“As a matter of fact, we do more surgeries with the laser than without it.”

He chose to go with a lower fee than the nationwide rate so that the equipment, an intense beam of light with instrumental precision and control, would be the most chosen technique.

Laser surgery offers three main benefits, Gregg said.

“As the laser cuts, it seals the nerves so the animal feels no pain during post-op. It also seals blood vessels so there is no swelling and it reduces the chances of infection by 50 percent.”

Gregg said any negatives from the surgery are minimal.

“It takes four days longer to heal,” he said. “That’s a small price to pay for the comfort of a pet. (It’s) 10 days no bath for the animal with the traditional method versus 14 days no bath with laser.”

In spite of the extended wait time for a bath, Gregg’s patients wear happy little smiles, Agnes and Henry Roberts of Ferriday said. Their daschunds were candidates for the laser procedure when they were neutered.

“Dr. Gregg gave us a choice of either using the laser or the regular procedure,” Agnes Roberts said. “Of course we did not hesitate when he told us that we wouldn’t even be able to tell the next day that they’d undergone surgery.

“We had another dog before we got these two that had a surgery in Shreveport without the laser, and he was blue and sore for days, lying around doing nothing. But when we picked up Gigs and Max, one day after the laser surgery, it was amazing to me. They never stopped playing.”

Margaret Perkins has cats that loved to use their claws to shred her furniture. When she first considered having them declawed, she learned that it was an extremely painful procedure. In addition, she was told that her cats may not be able to walk for days after the surgery.

“I just didn’t want them to have to go through that,” Perkins said of the traditional surgical methods.

She opted for laser surgery and was astounded at the way her cats bounced back after the procedure.

“He is one of the younger vets in the area and has brought in the latest procedures and has made an investment in technology for our animals,” Perkins said.

Even though Gregg was required to use a laser for surgery during some of his vet training at LSU, he wasn’t always sold on the laser idea.

“I shared the same thoughts as my father, (Dr. Ron Gregg, the surgeon) and felt like the scalpel was the only way to go.”

But at a continuing education seminar in 2005, Gregg discovered that the laser was the buzz word of the veterinarian field and decided to be open-minded about making the change.

“I believe in using better medicine, the best procedure, when I can use it,” he said. “It is definitely the equipment of the future. Ten years ago (veterinarians) did not have an ultra sound, now 90 percent have this equipment and use it daily.”

Gregg said he feels that the same thing will occur with the laser. He predicts that within five to 10 years there will be lasers in every veterinarian’s office and using them will be commonplace.

Gregg gained experience in the use of this technology at his office with the assistance of a specialist from the surgical laser team that sold him the equipment.

“I trained in house on tomatoes, orange peels and steaks for a long time before I began any animal procedures. Then I did five or six oral surgeries with the specialist mentoring me through it until I was comfortable.”

Gregg is definitely more than comfortable now, having completed approximately 750 laser surgeries since January 2007.

“I like it because it is a cleaner surgery, a bloodless surgery since it cauterizes as it goes,” he said. “It does take a little longer, but is worth it because it is so accurate it can shoot (single out) the eyelash of an eyelid,” Gregg said. “It is the latest and greatest as far as pain management for the patient. After an animal wakes up from a laser procedure, they don’t even know they had surgery.”

Since Gregg is the only local vet with the technology, he often sees animals from other doctors. But after the surgery, Gregg recommends that patients use their regular doctor for followup visits.

“All vets get burned out just because of the demand that is placed on a veterinarian,” he said. “This laser just gives me a new spin on what I already have to do. It’s a motivator, and it is keeping my hospital on the cutting edge.”

Some of the recommended procedures for laser surgery include declawing, spaying or neutering, tumor removal, ear cropping, skin tagging, cyst removal, soft palate procedures, and gingival and dental surgery.