Humans are still waiting for stem cell treatments to be available for them, while stem cell therapy has been used in horses for several years and now, this treatment is available for dogs also.
California based Vet-Stem, a company that touts itself to be a global leader in veterinary regenerative medicine, has been using stem cell therapy in horses for three years and is now offering it to dogs. Animals are treated with their own stem cells to repair tendons and ligaments.
Vet-Stem is the first and only company so far to use fat-derived stem cell treatments for commercial use. They have trained 65 small animal surgeons to treat osteoarthritis.
The company has used the licensed stem cell therapy to treat more than 2,500 horses and over 200 dogs with arthritis and tendon and ligament injuries.
The CEO of Vet-Stem, Robert Harman, said: â€œThe animals return to their prior level of performance about 75 percent of the time. Thereâ€™s no question that this is working.â€
He added the only side effects reported have been swelling at the injection site in a few cases.
The procedure involves collecting about two tablespoons of a dog’s own fat. The sample is typically taken from behind the shoulder blade or from the belly. The fat is then sent to Vet-Stem, and the regenerative cells are isolated. The cells are then sent back to the veterinarian in ready-to-inject syringes. This is then injected into the animal’s joint or other area that is injured.
The stem cell therapy procedure for dogs usually costs from $1,500 to $2,500, depending on the animal’s health. The procedure has only been performed on a small number of cats.
â€œThe problem with cats is that they hide their osteoarthritic issues. Itâ€™s just not as commonly diagnosed,â€ Harman said.
Vet-Stem is researching treatments for cats and especially focusing on cats with kidney disease. They are scheduled to start trials in 2008 for kidney disease in both cats and dogs.
Experts in the veterinary field have also been looking at Vet-Stem’s research with keen interest.
Dr. Beth Sabin, assistant director for education and research at the American Veterinary Medical Association said they support the use of stem cells in animals.
Sabin said: â€œWe donâ€™t endorse anything specifically, but we do think this is an exciting new area of research, and it does appear to work on animals with osteoarthritis and other joint problems. There is peer-reviewed scientific literature that lends credibility to what Vet-Stem is doing. They are in the business of making money, of course, so we have to look at them closely. But the basic research seems to back up what they are saying. And it appears that this is all being done in veterinarian clinics in a humane and ethical manner. Thatâ€™s key for us.â€
For pet owners, like Mike Zaremba, this therapy has been instrumental in helping his dog, Nakota (pictured here). His three-year-old Siberian Husky was in severe pain and could barely walk. An ACL surgery failed to help Nakota.
Zaremba’s veterinarian told him about stem cell therapy treatment, and he decided to have Nakota try it.
Within a few weeks after the procedure, Nakota was back to his usual self. He was running long distances, jumping into the car, and was showing no signs of pain. Zaremba said it was simply unbelievable.