Stem Cell Relief

Image of nurse in scrubs walking a dog.

More than 15 million dogs in North America suffer some form of degenerative joint disease, better known as arthritis. Unfortunately, many dog owners are unaware of the pain their pet is experiencing, chalking up the slow movement to the effects of "old age."

Some dogs may receive daily doses of pain relievers and oral joint care supplements. Still others might find their way to physical therapy or rehabilitation. Some lucky pets even get ramps built in their homes, sparing them the need to climb the dreaded stairs! But for some, any or all of these options are not enough to relieve the pain. But a potentially helpful treatment may be on the horizon called stem cell therapy. Vet-Stem, a company focused on bringing regenerative medicine technology to veterinarians, has developed a therapy to treat arthritis in dogs using the pet's own fat tissue!

Stem cells are precursor cells that have the potential to develop into a variety of specialized cell types. Most people may equate this technology with the controversial use of embryonic stem cells. But this new technology uses adult stem cells derived from the fat of the pet. Since they are the pet's own cells, there is no ethical debate!

Vet-Stem developed this technology from research and techniques used in equine medicine. Scientific and anecdotal evidence from more than 2,500 horses establishes that these fat derived stem cells are quite helpful for tendon and ligament injuries. Furthermore, no significant side effects were reported. Stem cells appear to moderate the inflammatory response and actually create a healthier healing environment in the joint.

Recently, a detailed study on the use of fat-derived stem cells in dogs showed that animals receiving the treatment demonstrated a significant improvement in lameness when compared to dogs in the control group. This news has excited scientists and pet owners alike and has many asking their veterinarians about the potential for a real world application.

Participating veterinarians can harvest a small fat sample from the pet and then send the sample priority overnight to Vet-Stem's laboratory in San Diego, California. Technicians then process the tissue to concentrate and purify the stem cells. The cells are returned to the veterinarian, ready to be injected into the pet just 48 hours after collection. All of this seems pretty miraculous and for some pets, the results are truly nothing short of a life-saving miracle. Many veterinarians are skeptical though and would like to see more controlled studies. It is also important to note several obstacles may stand in the way of a pet's pain relief.

First, not all pets are considered good candidates for this therapy. Since anesthesia is involved in both the harvesting step and the reintroduction of the cells, this may not be ideal for patients at increased risk for anesthetics. Additionally, according to Dr. Bob Harman, CEO of Vet-Stem, any dog with serious systemic disease, such as cancer, might not benefit from these treatments.

Arthritis can be painful and even debilitating in any dog. If you suspect your dog suffers from this disease, talk with your veterinarian about testing to confirm arthritis and then discuss the many treatment options. Veterinarians may recommend a multi-modal approach, combining appropriate medications, controlled exercise, weight loss, and environmental changes to make your pet's life easier. In some cases, new technology, like stem cell therapy, might be beneficial.

How Stem Cells Can Help with Arthritis

  • More than 20% of dogs in North America suffer from arthritis. This means that about 15 million of our canine companions have this painful disease
  • Arthritis is not disease that can be cured, only managed. Many veterinarians recommend pain relievers, joint supplements, careful exercise and weight control.
  • A new technology, stem cell therapy, may pave the way to save some of these dogs from early euthanasia.
  • Stem cells are cells that can become any type of cell in the body.
  • Removing a small amount of a pet's belly fat, a veterinarian can have the fat purified at a laboratory and the stem cells sent back for injection in the pet's arthritic joint.
  • The stem cells help to promote a healing environment in the joint and reduce the inflammation that lead to pain.
  • Many pet owners and veterinarians are happy with this therapy's results, but this treatment is not for all pets. The cost of the treatment is also an obstacle for some pet owners.
  • Talk with your veterinarian about steps you can take to help minimize the effects of arthritis on your dog and how to keep him comfortable.

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Feedback from our clients

  • "Words can not begin to express our gratitude for the care you had given Hunter over the years. When his time came, he watched for you to come through the door and his tail showed his affection towards you. That was most comforting having you there. Thank you.""
    ~R.H
  • ""Thank you so much for taking care of Maggie over the years. Y'all are the best and Dr. Johnson, you are the best vet in the world! God bless you all.""
    ~ J.D.
  • ""Your care for my beloved Mattie these last 10n years made her life, and mine much better….God bless each of you for all you did for us and I'm sure for all your other two and four legged patients.""
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  • ""Thank you for saving my life." ~T.C."
    ~T.C.
  • ""I can not express how grateful I am for you and your staff… I appreciate everything you did in Beckham's treatment. He was so lucky to have such a wonderful doctor on his side. Thank you for all you do for the benefit of all our beloved pets.""
    ~L.B.
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  • ""A sincere thank you for taking such good care of Dulce. We are so thrilled that she is back to her normal self. You gave her the support and care she needed in her darkest hours and kept us confident in her recovery.""
  • ""Just to say how much we appreciate all of you. You all are wonderful people. We feel blessed to have our beloved furry children in your care when they need it. Your professional knowledge and your acts of kindness have a beautiful act all it's own. You are a great vet, compassionate and everything good all in one. You are in our daily prayers.""
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  • ""Thank you and all of your staff for the excellent care you gave to my wonderful Abbey, who was so much a part of the family. Thank you for all the advice and support you gave to me these last few months. I don't know how I would have gotten through this without your constant support. I will, and I have highly recommended you to family and friends, as I feel you are the best!""
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  • ""Thank you for taking care of my kitty, Slingshot. He is feeling better and better. My Paw-Paw said that you took extra special care of him and I really appreciate it. So, thank you again for taking care of my cat.""
    ~T.B. (age 6)
  • ""Dr. Johnson, I don't know why you decided to move here from your home in New Jersey, but I absolutely believe it was so you could help me and Mickey. I know coming to someone's home is not what a typical veterinarian would do, but you are obviously an extraordinary man in a world filled with ordinary men….On top of that, your sensitive and wonderful handwritten note arrived and touched my heart…You are one of those quiet, unheralded champions who make life easier for everyone you touch.""
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  • ""Thank you for all of your support for Maxine during her illness. All was very much appreciated and will always be remembered. I have related to all my friends of what a great doctor and staff at Birdneck Animal Hospital.""
    ~O.B.
  • ""Thank you for taking such good care of me over the last 4 years. I am doing well and both legs and feet feel great. You sis an awesome job on me Dr. Johnson, and I'm gonna have a great year this year and I hope to see you only for my check up. You guys are the best!""
    ~Budkus
  • "We can't thank you enough for the wonderful and loving care you gave to"Budkus" while he was in your care. He was so little and so sick and we were so scared for him. Each and every one of the staff members made us feel like we had the only dog in the world. Like nothing else mattered except getting "Budkus" well again. Our deepest gratitude to all of you for the excellent care and attention we received, for your encouragement, comfort, and understanding, and most importantly for saving his life! Thank you so much.""
    ~ J.,B.,C.