Is laser therapy or surgery better for my dachshund?

Question: 

My dachshund is having trouble walking. My vet has recommended laser therapy, but I've read that surgery is best. What is the best treatment option?

Answer: 

Difficulty walking can be caused by any disease that causes pain, weakness, or spinal cord dysfunction. Proper evaluation of difficulty walking starts with a complete physical examination and may involve other tests such as screening blood and urine tests, blood pressure and EKG evaluation, radiographs of the chest, an ultrasound of the abdomen, radiographs of the joints or spine under sedation, and possibly advanced imaging of the spine with MRI or CT. Without knowing the underlying cause of the difficulty walking, it is not possible to say whether laser therapy would help, do nothing, or possibly even cause disease progression.

Intervertebral disc herniation (Type I Intervertebral Disc Disease) is a common cause of back pain and spinal cord dysfunction in dachshunds. This is diagnosed with spinal cord imaging including MRI, CT, or sometimes myelography. There are numerous studies evaluating treatment outcomes with a wide range of results. Generally, when treated early, surgical decompression carries a higher (70-95%) success rate than medical management alone (70% with 30% chance of chronic relapses). Cold laser therapy has not been widely studied in dogs with intervertebral disc disease, but based on the limited data available, it is unlikely to cause further harm and may shorten recovery time when used in conjunction with surgery.