Joint Pain? Try Stem Cell Therapy
Substantial joint damage and degenerative diseases like osteoarthritis once meant constant pain and a slow decline for afflicted dogs and cats, but a new treatment is now improving patients’ quality of life by reducing pain and inflammation and actually rebuilding healthy tissues. Regenerative stem cell therapy involves extracting and isolating the regenerative stem cells— cells that activate in case of injury and produce the type of cell required to repair the damage—from the animal’s own fat tissue and injecting them directly into the diseased or damaged joints. Last October, Dr. Joe Whalen, DVM, of the Chicago-based LePar Animal Hospital, became the first veterinarian in Illinois to successfully treat three of his canine patients with in-house stem cell therapy. Dr. Whalen extracted a sample of each dog’s fat tissue and processed it to isolate highly potent regenerative stem cells. The cells were then injected intravenously into the canine’s diseased and damaged joints. The process took about 90 minutes and cost approximately $2000 per dog, which covered injections into multiple joints.
Stem cells processed on site are more likely to have a clinical benefit and, as Dr. Whalen notes, the cost of the therapy is lower than when an off-site lab is used to isolate the stem cells, making the procedure possible for a greater number of patients.
If your vet doesn’t offer this service in-house, you can still utilize the therapy by going through Vet-Stem, a San Diegobased company specializing in fat-derived stem cell therapy for veterinary medicine. Using an off-site lab such as Vet-Stem is currently the most common practice. It requires a sample be taken and shipped to them to be processed before being shipped back, a procedure that takes about 48 hours and requires two separate vet visits.
If stem cell therapy is something you’re interested in considering, speak to your vet about your options. For some prospective patients, such as those with cancer or severe degenerative joint disease, the procedure might be too risky. For others, like Gabby, the 11-year-old Rottweiler who regained a remarkable degree of mobility a week after a stem-cell procedure for her arthritic knees, it can make a real difference.