Stem Cell Therapy Saves Dog’s Lives
November 17, 2011
This holiday season, consider giving your pet relief from arthritis pain. Millions of dogs suffer the aches and discomfort of arthritis. Millions more may be hurting without any obvious signs. Now, a new science, using cells derived from the pet’s own fat, may bring relief to many or our painful pet companions.
When your pet has arthritis, you can almost feel the pain he is suffering. You watch as he struggles to rise from his bed, cringe as he slowly ascends the stairs, and you can even hear the creaks and groans as he stretches out before his morning walk.
More than 15 million dogs in North America suffer some form of degenerative joint disease, better known as arthritis. Unfortunately, many dog owners are completely unaware of the pain their pet is experiencing, chalking up the slow movement to the effects of “old age”.
Some dogs may receive daily doses of pain relievers and oral joint care supplements. Still others might find their way to physical therapy or rehabilitation. Some lucky pets even get ramps built in their homes, sparing them the need to climb the dreaded stairs.
But for some, any or all of these options are not enough to relieve the pain. Sadly, many owners decide to euthanize their faithful companion, because of the severity of the pain or the continued high cost of treatment.
But a new helpful treatment is finally here called stem cell therapy. Vet-Stem and Medivet are two companies focused on bringing regenerative medicine technology to veterinarians. They have developed a therapy to treat arthritis in dogs using the pet’s own fat tissue. The Medivet technology even allows the veterinarian to process the cells in-house, meaning that your pet does not have to wait a week for cells to be sent to an outside lab, processed and sent back. With Medivet technology, your pet can have the fat cells harvested and injected into the affected joints in one day.
Stem cells are precursor cells that have the potential to develop into a variety of specialized cell types. Most people may equate this technology with the controversial use of embryonic stem cells. But this new technology uses adult stem cells derived from the fat of the pet. Since they are the pet’s own cells, there is no ethical debate.
This technology was developed from research and techniques used in equine medicine. Scientific and anecdotal evidence from more than 2,500 horses establishes that fat derived stem cells are quite helpful for tendon and ligament injuries. Furthermore, no significant side effects were reported. Stem cells appear to moderate the inflammatory response and actually create a healthier healing environment in the joint.
Recently, a detailed study on the use of fat-derived stem cells in dogs showed that animals receiving the treatment demonstrated a significant improvement in lameness when compared to dogs in the control group. We have definitely seen this effect on our own patients at Bees Ferry Veterinary Hospital. Dogs that couldn’t climb stairs or jump on beds are back to their old mischievous selves.
All of this seems pretty miraculous and for some pets, the results are truly nothing short of a life-saving miracle. Unfortunately, not all pets are good candidates for this therapy. Since anesthesia is involved in both the harvesting step and the reintroduction of the cells, this may not be ideal for patients at increased risk for anesthetics. Any dog with serious systemic disease, such as cancer, might not benefit from these treatments.
Some pets need to return regularly for follow-up treatments, but we are seeing improvement in arthritic dogs for 6 months to 3 years before repeat injections are needed. Some pets do so well, that they over-exert themselves and injure other muscles and ligaments that have not been used in a while. You can minimize these complications by limiting your pet’s activity until he is fit again.
Arthritis can be painful and even debilitating in any dog. If you suspect your dog suffers from this disease, talk with your veterinarian about testing to confirm arthritis and then discuss the many treatment options. Your veterinarian will recommend a multi-modal approach, combining appropriate medications, controlled exercise, weight loss, and environmental changes to make your dog’s life easier. In some cases, new technology, like stem cell therapy, might be beneficial. To learn more about this high-tech solution to an age old problem, visit bfvh.net and go to our arthritis page.