Saturday, March 14, 2009

Stem Cell Therapy Helps Pets In Pain

Dr. David Gordon, Medical Director, VCA Arroyo Animal Hospital, Lake Forest, CA

Dear Dr Gordon: I am at the point of considering putting my 10 year old lab to sleep. She has had a history of moderate hip dysplasia that never seemed to bother her very much, but last year she blew out her knee or ACL. This was surgically fixed, but she seems in chronic pain now. The doctors have tried a variation of many different medications for her pain and nothing seems to be helping. Is there anything else that is available? I am at my wits end. AJ

Dear AJ: Is there anything worse than seeing your beloved pet in constant pain? It sounds as if you have been a very conscientious pet owner in dealing with your pet’s situation.
One of the most gratifying things I have been able to do is to help pets live with pain utilizing holistic medical therapies and acupuncture; especially the chronic nagging pain of arthritis.

Even though that has been very gratifying, it has also been the most frustrating. I realize that these therapies did not offer any long term solution for the patient’s pain UNTIL NOW.

There has been a recent scientific breakthrough to help pets deal with the pain associated with osteoarthritis as well as injuries of tendons and ligaments. A southern California company, Vet-Stem, has developed the technology to provide veterinarians a new and innovative therapy utilizing STEM CELLS. You can visit them on the web at In addition to chronic arthritis, anticipated future uses for stem cell therapy could include autoimmune disease, liver disease, neurological disease, and kidney disease.

You may have heard about some of the scientific breakthroughs regarding the use of human stem cells. Stem cells are the “ancestral” cells that have the “programming” to turn into the specialized cells where ever they are needed in the body. But harvesting them has been difficult. One promising source of stem cells, human embryos, raises moral objections from those who consider the embryos human individuals. This has raised a lot of controversy and politics surrounding the collection of these EMBRYONIC stem cells. The beauty of pet stem cell therapy is that we are using the pet’s own adult body cells, or MESENCHYMAL CELLS, to collect the stem cells. Regulators don't allow stem cell therapies to be tried in humans until they are shown to be safe in animals. And animal treatments are not subject to the extensive regulation required for humans.

How is this done? A small quantity of fat is collected from the pet and the sample is shipped priority Fed Ex to the Vet Stem laboratory. Fat is utilized because it is readily available, easy to harvest, and rich with stem cells. Within 48 hours of collection, the patient’s own regenerative stem cells are returned for injection into the affected joint or bloodstream. The beauty of this process is that we are dealing with the pet’s pain in a very holistic manner, utilizing the pet’s own body to heal itself. There may be no lifetime drugs to take and, best of all, there are very few, if any, side effects.

This process has been used in clinical trials for the past three years, and the results have been extremely promising. Over 2500 horses and 200 dogs have been successfully treated.
I am hoping that stem cell therapy will prove to be “the answer” for pet’s in chronic pain from osteoarthritis that do not seem to respond well to our normal protocols for pain relief.