Stem Cell Treatment for Dogs
Revolutionary Treatment Helps Ease Arthritis
Photo credit: Steve Sweitzer
Meet Malibu, a white shepherd, who was picture-perfect at six weeks of age when she was adopted by her family. Energetic, with a zest for chasing after and jumping for her toy ball, “Boo” thrived on being active.
Fast forward nine years. It’s 2008 and age has taken its toll. Boo has great difficulty standing up and struggles to walk to her dog bed. She limps painfully and her back arches, bracing from the pain of severe arthritis in her hips.
Boo wasn’t responding significantly to traditional anti-inflammatory treatment for her arthritis. Her owners, Steve and Sheila Sweitzer, were worried about her quality of life. But, they discovered there was a new option for Boo: Stem cell regenerative treatment surgery.
This revolutionary treatment for dogs can help—but pet owners should be financially prepared. The average cost for stem cell treatment for a dog costs approximately $2,500.
Stem Cell Treatment Successful with Horses and Dogs
Stem cells hold immense promise for medical treatment because they can take on the traits of all kinds of cells and then replicate many times over. But they’re also the subject of fierce controversy because the most versatile cells can only be derived from embryos.
But what if you can utilize stem cells found in your own body? Not only is it possible, it’s also proven to be effective in animals.
Vet-Stem Regenerative Veterinary Medicine in San Diego, Calif., has spent the past 20 years developing a successful stem cell treatment for animals.
Vet-Stem CEO and founder Robert Harmon says that during their development phase Vet-Stems treated nearly 3,000 horses, many with joint problems. One of those, a race horse named Be A Bono had bone chips and fluid buildup in his knees that threatened to end his prize-winning career—and his life.
After receiving stem cell treatment, Be A Bono returned to the race track and has since earned more than $1.25 million in prize money.
Word of Vet-Stem’s success got around and people began to ask if the treatment would work on dogs. According to Vet-Stem, canine patients show significant improvement about 70% of the time.
How Does Stem Cell Treatment Work for Dogs?
The ideal candidate for stem cell treatment is a dog in otherwise good health that suffers from arthritis or hip dysplasia but doesn’t respond well to the typical medication.
The first step in a dog’s stem cell treatment is collecting fat cells from the dog’s body. The regenerative cells that are collected do several things: They release chemicals that help decrease inflammation; they send out chemicals to the body to bring healing cells into that area; and they have the potential to regenerate damaged tissue—in other words, nearly reproducing tissue as it was at a younger stage.
One other important factor: These are not synthetic cells being replaced into dogs, they’re their own natural healing cells so there is less chance of rejection or interaction and there are potentially fewer side effects.
Boo underwent general anesthesia to have about 30 grams of fat cells removed from her abdomen. These fat cells were then shipped to the Vet-Stem labs where the cells were isolated and then sent back to Boo’s veterinarian within 48 hours.
Under local anesthesia, the cells were then re-injected back into Boo’s arthritic hips in greater concentration than her own body could’ve accomplished.
Stem Cell Treatment for Severe Canine Arthritis
Photo credit: Steve Sweitzer
Within one week of her stem cell injection, Steve and Sheila noticed a shift in Boo’s behavior.
“Right away, we saw a significant improvement,” says Steve. “She stopped whining and crying at night, and clearly had a better time getting up and moving around. All of us—including Boo’s doctor—were surprised at how quickly she improved.”
Boo went back to running in the backyard, even jumping up to catch her ball.
“Technology saved the day,” Steve says with a smile in his voice. “Boo lives to chase her tennis ball.”
During Boo’s procedure in 2008, the Sweitzers stored an extra set of the dog’s cells for future use and, according to Steve, they’ll likely be put to good use in the near future.
“Boo is 12 years old now,” he explained in 2012, “and she’s slowly beginning to show signs of arthritis again. While we’ll be able to use what was stored in 2008, we’ll have to bank more cells in order to have enough to use in both of her joints.”
The Sweitzers believe the cost of the procedure was worth extending the quality of Boo’s life. Says Steve, “Thank god my kids are through college!”
To see Boo in action, and learn more about her procedure, watch her video.
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