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Laser Surgery a Pet Procedure for Vets

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RALEIGH — One of the worst parts of surgery is the painful recovery. Some veterinarians are offering a practically pain-free possibility for pets.

Five-year old Artichoke needs surgery. Her vet believes a suspicious skin tumor may be malignant.

Artichoke will not have her tumor removed the conventional way. She will not be put under general anesthesia and the doctor wil not cut her with a scalpel.

Instead, Artichoke is mildly sedated and Dr. Gale Bowman uses a high-tech laser that vaporizes the tissue instead of cutting it.

"When you do the laser, it literally seals the blood vessels so there's no bleeding," Boweman says. "It seals the lymphatic so you don't get edema or swelling post-operatively."

The laser seals nerve endings, so there is little or no pain.

"They're like working on children," Bowman says. "When they hurt, they don't understand why. So if we can reduce the pain and still take care of what we need to. I think that's the beauty of the laser."

Bowman says the laser can be used for most general surgical procedures for animals, including spay, neuter and feline declaw.

Veterinarians started offering laser surgery a few years ago, but it has been slow to catch on, largely because of the price. A machine costs $25,000 -- well worth the investment for some vets.

"The beautiful part is she'll walk around this afternoon and wonder what all the fuss is about, because she's have little to no pain from it," says Bowman.

Twenty minutes after surgery, Artichoke appears to be fine.

Not all veterinarians offer laser surgery. The ones that do, charge extra for it.

Dr. Bowman typically charges $78 above the regular price of the surgery.

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Laurie Clowers, Reporter
Keith Baker, Photographer
Michelle Singer, Web Editor

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