Stem Cell Therapy
Stem cell therapy is a recently developed technology for use in our pets. Stem cells have been a hot topic of debate in human medicine due to use of embryos to harvest them. The technology in pets, however, is slightly different. We use adult stem cells harvested from your own pet’s fat to inject into your pet’s painful, arthritic joints.
How does this work? Well first, we must know what stem cells are and what they do. Stem cells are pregenitor cells. They can differentiate into many different types of tissues, including muscles, nerves, cartilage, bone, fat, liver, as well as others. These cells are drawn to areas of damage within the body, where they help to repair damage that has occurred. In the case of arthritis treatment, the cells are injected straight into the joint. Studies have shown that these stem cells help repair damaged cartilage, decrease inflammation, prevent damaged cells from dying, heal these damaged cells, and promote active tissue regeneration.
How do we treat your pet with stem cells? First, we have to harvest fat from your animal. This is done with a brief anesthetic procedure and surgery. The fat is collected and shipped to the lab to have the stem cells harvested. The lab then harvests the stem cells and ships them back within 24 hours, for a total turnaround time of 36 to 48 hours. When we have the cells, your pet is lightly sedated and the cells are injected into the damaged joint. Rest is important for 30 days after the procedure, at which time exercise and physical therapy are encouraged. We will provide specific exercises to perform with your pet based off of which joint or joints have been treated.
Studies have shown that 80 to 90% of dogs have an improved quality of life. One third of all dogs treated in the clinical trials were able to completely stop giving non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and another 28% were able to decrease the dosage after just 90 days. Dogs treated with stem cells were also shown to have increased range of motion in affected joints, decreased lameness, and decreased overall pain.
Is stem cell therapy safe? There is minimal risk involved in stem cell therapy for several reasons. First, the cells we are injecting into your pet came from your pet! This minimizes any chances for a tissue reaction or rejection of the cells. Second, the cells that are collected are not changed in any way. The lab does not manipulate the cells or modify the cells. They simply collect them from the fat and send them back to us in an injectable form. In addition, there have been numerous publications supporting the safety of stem cell therapy in animals. The total number of adverse events in the clinical trials was less than 1%, and the events were related to the harvesting of the fat or the injection itself rather than the use of stem cells.
Does my pet need stem cells? Currently, stem cell usage is limited to arthritis and orthopedic soft tissue damage, including ligaments, tendons, and fractures. Studies are ongoing with liver disease, kidney disease, and some auto-immune diseases. Stem cells cannot be used for cancer or in the case of active infections.
Stem cell therapy presents us with an exciting, cutting edge technology that can greatly benefit many pets. If you wish to pursue stem cell therapy for your pet, contact us and we can set up an appointment to discuss your pet’s condition. We would be happy to answer any additional questions regarding stem cells!