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What You Need to Know About Stem Cell Therapy for Pets


For years, stem cells have been promoted as a potential treatment for numerous diseases. Doctors already use stem cell therapy as a treatment for lymphoma, leukemia, other blood disorders, and some solid cancer tumors. Stem cell technology is now an evolving branch of veterinary medicine. Stem cell therapy for pets allows animals to benefit from this form of treatment.

Currently, stem cells can be used to treat osteoarthritis in dogs and cats. In addition, stem cell therapy is used to treat injured or diseased tissues such as tendons, ligaments, cartilage, the spinal cord, muscles and more. Instead of using artificial replacement implants for damaged tissue, veterinarians are able to introduce real tissue replacements. Stem cells reduce pain and inflammation, restore quality of life, and range of motion. As well as, regenerate tendon, ligament, and joint tissues.

What is Stem Cell Therapy?

Stem cells in all animals are like blank slates that grow without any clear identity. The cell can divide and grow into any type of cell, such as blood cells or muscle. Stem cells can heal a myriad of injuries and be used to treat illnesses in pets. After they’re injected into the body, they can regenerate in a part of the body where tissue has been damaged by disease and lost its function. Stem cells, for instance, can be used to repair joints, ligaments, and muscles that have been damaged by injury or arthritis.

Stem cells used by veterinarians are typically harvested from fat stores from your pet or from another animal of the same breed. The harvested stem cells are injected into the diseased area and move to the damaged or inflamed tissue. This can help to relieve pain, suppress inflammation, and start new tissue growth.

How are Stem Cells are Collected and Used in Pets?

After a thorough examination of your pet, stem cells will be collected and injected into your pet’s body. During the harvesting procedure, your pet will be put under general anesthesia. Stem cells are typically taken from fatty tissue usually near the shoulder or the falciform ligament next to the liver. The procedure can take between 30 minutes to an hour.

The collected cells will then be sent to a laboratory where a substance known as a stromal vascular fraction is produced. About 48 hours later, your pet will go in for another visit where the substance will be injected directly into the affected area. The number of injections needed varies based on the severity of the condition. Since the stem cells are natural, there’s much less of adverse reaction or rejection.

Does Stem Cells Therapy for Pets Work and is it Safe?

Due to the infancy of stem cell therapy for pets, there are no large scale studies to support its effectiveness or possible adverse effects. However, there are several studies underway intended to show how stem cell therapy works. Current studies are showing that greater than 80% of pets with arthritis show improvements in quality of life after stem cell therapy. Just like any other medical procedure, there are risks associated with stem cell therapy. Ranging from the patient’s body reacting to or rejecting the newly placed cells to risks associated with the extraction procedure.

What to Expect After Treatment

Since stem cell therapy is a minimally invasive procedure, your pet can recover promptly from treatment. Your vet may also recommend leaving your pet overnight at the hospital for close monitoring.

Once your pet is home, you may start to see improvements in as little as 10 days but it can take up to a month or so. Full recovery varies on a case-by-case basis, so it could take several months for your pet to be back to full health. Further follow-ups and check-up appointments with your vet are necessary. These appointments are set up after the procedure. Anti-inflammatory drugs and other supplements may also be administered to maintain and improve your pet’s health.

Stem cell research for pets is changing the veterinary field and is already having solid success. In the future, it may be used to successfully treat a wider variety of canine illnesses and diseases.  Contact our office to set up an appointment to discuss your pet’s care.