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Is Stem Cell Therapy Suitable for Pets?

Close up of black lab.

Stem cell therapy is an exciting branch of veterinary medicine. It has been used successfully on cats, dogs, and horses for the treatment of bone, ligament, and joint problems. What makes stem cell therapy for pets such an exciting treatment option is that it allows your vet to introduce natural tissue replacements instead of using artificial implants.

Stem cell therapy can also be an alternative to drugs for long-term pain management of osteoarthritis. When orthopedic surgery is necessary, stem cells can help promote tissue regeneration and faster healing. Early research shows stem cells might successfully treat stomatitis in cats and dry eye in dogs. Stem cell therapy for pets is safe and holds immense promise for becoming a practical treatment option for spinal cord injuries, chronic diseases, and autoimmune diseases.

What Are Stem Cells?

Stem cells are like blank slates. They start out as unspecialized cells that are capable of dividing and growing into any type of cell. Stem cells can differentiate into bone, blood vessels, fat, ligament, nerve, tendon, cartilage, cardiac, and muscle tissue. Pet stem cell therapy refers to the process of harvesting stem cells from the body and placing them into tissue with damage or disease, such as an arthritic joint or a torn ligament. This process is also known as regenerative medicine.

Stem cells have the potential to do several things:

  • Release elements that help decrease inflammation
  • Bring healing cells to an injury or diseased area
  • Regenerate tissue that has damage or is dead and bring it into a state close to how it was at a younger state

There are two types of stem cells used in veterinary medicine: adult stem cells and embryonic stem cells. Pet stem cell therapy typically uses adult stem cells from bone marrow or adipose (fat) tissue. Because stem cells are a pet’s own natural healing cells, there’s much less chance of adverse interaction or rejection.

The Pet Stem Cell Therapy Process

Under anesthesia, the vet will extract some fat cells from your pet using a small incision in the abdomen or shoulder region. This sample is then sent to a special lab, where they extract and concentrate stem cells. The final stage of treatment involves the injection of the stem cells into the tissue damage area, such as a knee, hip, or elbow joint. This is also done with your pet under some form of sedation or anesthesia.

The Ideal Candidate for Canine Stem Cell Therapy

Stem cell therapy is not ideal for every pet or every condition. The ideal candidate is a pet in otherwise good health that suffers from osteoarthritis, hip dysplasia, or joint and ligament injuries. It may also be ideal if the pet doesn’t respond well to medication. Stem cell therapy is a good fit for a pet whose quality of life might further deteriorate with an invasive surgical procedure. Because vets collect the stem cells from the patient’s own tissues, a pet must be in overall good health for the treatment to be effective.

The most common and successful veterinary use of stem cell therapy is in the treatment of osteoarthritis, as well as repairing ligament, bone, joint, and tendon injuries. Stem cell therapy can also be used to treat certain inflammatory diseases. Research into potential uses of stem cells for pets is still ongoing. Patients with cancer are not ideal candidates because of the risk of causing the cancer cells to grow, worsen, or spread more rapidly. Screening patients generally involves X-Rays of joints, the chest, and the abdominal area to rule out tumors. Blood tests also rule out other underlying conditions.

The Safety and Effectiveness of Stem Cell Therapy for Pets

There is minimal risk involved in veterinary stem cell therapy. To begin with, stem cells come from your pet, so there’s little risk of rejection or reaction. Secondly, the lab processing is done under strict aseptic conditions to ensure there’s little risk of infection. Finally, stem cells are not modified in any way. They’re just concentrated and activated so they can do their job faster.

In most cases of stem cell treatment, pets show significant improvement in 3-6 weeks. The improvements can last between 1 and 3 years once the treatment takes full effect. Pet owners have reported:

  • Less obvious signs of pain
  • Reduced reliance on anti-inflammatory medications
  • Greater range of motion
  • Less difficulty walking
  • Happier and more energetic pets

However, it’s worth noting that not all patients will respond positively to stem cell treatment. The procedure is repeatable in case of poor or no improvement.

The veterinarians at Naples Coast Animal Hospital are glad to offer this revolutionary therapy. And increase the quality of life of our four-legged patients. Contact us today,  239-500-0105,  to learn about stem cell therapy and find out if it is right for your pet.