Osteoarthritis is the most common cause of pain in dogs. It is a degenerative disease that causes inflammation within a joint leading to significant pain, stiffness, swelling and heat. Over time it can lead to decreased range of motion in the affected limb, lameness or a complete inability to move. Osteoarthritis begins when cartilage within the joint is damaged. Cartilage acts as the shock absorber for the bones and when it is damaged the bones suffer significant stress. This can occur with an injury, obesity, (added stress on the joints), or a congenital abnormality such as hip dysplasia. Inflammation occurs and triggers a response that further damages cartilage leading to a vicious cycle and eventually changes to the bones themselves. There are medical and surgical options to help relieve some of the pain associated with this process, but there is no cure. Recently, stem cell therapy has been introduced to help reduce some of the symptoms associated with arthritis. It has been shown to increase strength and range of motion within the joint while decreasing pain and strain on the affected area.

The stem cells used in this process are obtained from the animal itself. They are mature cells and NOT the embryonic cells obtained from a fetus that most would associate with stem cell research. A sample of the patient's adipose, (fat), is obtained and sent for processing. The adipose, like many tissues in the body, contain adult stem cells that are able to be extracted. Once the cells are isolated they can be injected into the joint with the arthritis. The stem cells act to block scarring and inflammation within the joint. They also increase regeneration and vascularization within the area further relieving pain and discomfort. This potentially may lead a greatly improved quality of life for the dog.

Prior to stem cell therapy your pet should receive a complete physical examination from your veterinarian. X-Rays will be needed to fully evaluate the joint for signs of any other disease. Bloodwork should be obtained to rule out any tick borne disease or secondary disease that can contribute to arthritis. Patients that are best suited for stem cell therapy include those that are not good candidates for surgical management, those that do not respond to medical treatment or those that have a poor quality of life. After all of the history and testing is complete the stem cells can then be collected.

Fat cells are used because they are easy to collect from the patient from either behind the shoulder or the groin area. A short period of general anesthesia is required for this procedure. Fat often contains a great deal of usable cells for treatment compared to other tissue in the body. If additional cells are obtained they can be frozen and stored for later treatments. After processing the cells are injected into the diseased area. Sedation is needed to ensure that the cells reach the appropriate area.

Stem cell therapy has been reported to improve symptoms in 75% of dogs suffering with arthritis. This results in a better quality of life for pets and their owners. The dogs become more comfortable and therefore have increased use and movement within the affected area. In severe cases arthritis can result in euthanasia due to the uncontrolled pain and the inability to walk. Stem cell therapy has reportedly given some of these dogs a second chance, extending their lives and keeping them more comfortable.

If you are wondering if your dog is a candidate for stem cell therapy or if you have any further questions about stem cell please contact one of the veterinarians at the Brooklyn Veterinary Group.