Dr. Julie Damron

3 minutes reading time (511 words)

Regenerative stem cell therapy in dogs

Stem cells are currently being used in dogs and horses to treat many health problems. Stem cells are cells that can transform into many types of cells including bone, tendon, ligament, cartilage, muscle, liver, cardiac, nerve, and others.

Vet-Stem, a laboratory located in San Diego, California, can provide concentrated stem cells from 2 teaspoons of a patient's fat. General anesthesia is needed to harvest the fat cells. The samples are then shipped to Vet-Stem, where the stem cells are concentrated. The process takes about 48 hours. The cells can then be injected directly into the injury site. Most patients are able to receive the regenerative cells without anesthesia; but sometimes local anesthesia is needed.

Currently, the regenerative therapy can be used to treat a multitude of joint and bone problems including fractures, partial tears of tendons or ligaments; arthritis due to age, immune problems, or inheritance; as well as some congenital joint problems. These issues are typically more common in large breed dogs; but can affect small dogs as well. Vet-Stem therapy is also being used in horses. In time, it maybe possible to use these cells to treat many other illnesses; other treatment options for kidney, liver, heart, and nerve diseases are in experimental stages. Some patients may need additional injections over time based on symptoms and treatment response.

Stem cell therapy is not recommended in dogs who have Cancer or have an active systemic infection. The presence of other illnesses can decrease the effectiveness of regenerative therapy. All patients must be good candidates for general anesthesia. In addition to a general exam, pre-anesthetic screening normally includes at least a blood panel. In some patients additional testing including x-rays and a urinalysis may be recommended.

Why use stem cells? This therapy is recommended for patients who may have difficulty with recovery from surgery for orthopedic procedures. Surgical recovery normally takes 6-8 weeks, or longer. It can also be a great asset for patients who may not handle anesthesia as well. The time required under anesthesia to harvest fat cells is much shorter than that required for orthopedic procedures. The costs associated with this procedure are not inexpensive, and are typically in the $2500 range. However, this is much less expensive than a total hip replacement, a procedure that is performed at a specialized surgical facility and costs $7000 or more. Stem cell therapy can also mean less use of long-term pain medications. Vet-Stem can also bank cells for future treatments; and is just now able to grow additional cells in the laboratory.

Success rates with treatment are good, with 75% of patients with arthritis having an improved quality of life following treatment. Peer reviewed studies as well as more information are available at the Vet-Stem website www.vet-stem.com. Our clinic offers this service, and has had good success. In our setting we have seen improvements as early as 1 week post injection, with some patients taking up to 4 weeks for a response. Your veterinarian is the best person to evaluate if this procedure can be helpful for your cherished companion.

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Sunday, 18 November 2018