Stem Cell Therapy for Dogs

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    Dr. Amanda Jondle

    Dr. Amanda Jondle is an experienced veterinary who helping pets and educating clients through writing and editing articles to inform pet owners on how to best care for their pets. Amanda graduated from Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine. She and her husband currently have 4 rescue dogs and 3 cats of their own and are often fostering pets with health issues until they find their forever homes.

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  • Updated on: 17/04/2020

stem cell therapy for dogs@herraez / Freepik

What is stem cell therapy?

  • Stem cell therapy is a type of regenerative medicine that helps the body regenerate and repair damaged tissue.
  • Stem cells are unspecialized cells. This means that they have not differentiated into a specific type of cell or tissue. They are the building blocks of organs and tissues.
  • During the developmental process, these unspecialized cells can grow into tissues such as muscles, nerves, tendons, ligaments, bones, blood vessels, organs, cartilage, and fat. When injected into damaged tissue, stem cells can help reduce inflammation and rebuild healthy tissue.
  • Stem cell therapy is a process in which the stem cells are collected and injected into different areas of the body that are diseased or in need of repair. The stem cells then grow into the correct cell type needed to repair the damage in that particular organ or tissue.

How do you get stem cells?

  1. In animals, stem cells are typically collected from the bone marrow or fat (adipose) tissue. This requires the animal to be under anesthesia to ensure that they are comfortable and relaxed. Stem cells from bone marrow are harvested from the femur in dogs and cats. Stem cells from fat (adipose) tissue are collected from a small incision either in the groin (inguinal region) or shoulder areas in dogs and cats.
  2. The tissue is sent in a sterile environment to a special laboratory where they isolate & concentrate the stem cells.
  3. The stem cells are sent from the lab back to the veterinarian to be injected into the affected area. Often, these are damaged or injured joints in animals. This procedure also requires the pet to be under anesthesia.
  4. Stem cells should be collected from the pet needing stem cell therapy.

What is stem cell therapy used for in dogs?

vet stem cell therapy for dogs@Autri Taheri
  • Stem cell therapy can be useful in dogs to help treat conditions such as a torn ligament in the knee, known as a cruciate injury, or osteoarthritis in various joints.
  • Currently, the approved uses of Vet-Stem Regenerative Cells are for osteoarthritis, osteochondritis dissecans (OCD), partial tears of tendons or ligaments, and bone fractures. However, stem cells are known to be helpful in animals suffering from tendonitis, degenerative joint disease, hip dysplasia, tendon sprains or strains, and elbow dysplasia.
  • There are other potential uses for stem cells that are still undergoing research, such as their use to repair other bone or ligament injuries, spinal cord injuries, kidney, liver, and heart disease, and inflammatory diseases of the gastrointestinal tract or skin.

How much is stem cell therapy for dogs?

stem cell therapy for dogs cost@evablanco / Freepik
  1. The cost of stem cell therapy will depend on the area in which you live, the size and breed of your dog, and how much diagnostic testing your dog needs before therapy.
  2. You should expect to pay anywhere between $2,500-$4,500 for the initial diagnostic tests, collection surgery, and implantation. Costs can vary depending on the condition and frequency of treatment.
  3. There is also an option to bank the stem cells through Vet-Stem in San Diego for approximately $250 per year.
  4. Right now, stem cell therapy requires specialized training for veterinarians to treat pets. It is most commonly found at specialty referral hospitals or veterinary teaching hospitals at this time. For a lot of people, stem cell therapy is cost-prohibitive, and the lack of access can make it difficult to find a veterinarian to perform the procedure. These are some of the biggest obstacles in stem cell therapy.

How long does stem cell therapy last in dogs?

  • Every patient is different in terms of how long the stem cell therapy will benefit them. Some dogs will show improvement in just a few days after treatment while others may take weeks to months to see a benefit. The time that it lasts varies depending on the severity of the condition that your dog suffers from.
  • It may take more than one treatment to notice a positive effect in your dog and just like other mainstream therapies, there is a change that may not help or make a difference.

Can stem cell therapy in dogs cause cancer?

can stem cell therapy in dogs cause cancer@Marcus Löfvenberg
  1. There is still a lot of research going to determine if or when stem cell therapy is appropriate to treat cancer.
  2. At this time, it is not recommended that stem cell therapy be used in pets that currently have or those who are predisposed to cancer.
  3. If you are considering stem cell therapy for your pet, make sure to have an in-depth conversation with your veterinarian about whether or not your pet is the right candidate. Your veterinarian will want a thorough diagnostic screening and work up to make sure your pet doesn’t have indications of cancer or other contraindicating diseases that would exclude them from stem cell therapy.
  4. The concern is that if stem cells are used in a pet with cancer, the stem cells will differentiate into cancer cells and produce more of the bad cells instead of the good cells. There is also a chance that it could cause cancer to worsen, grow faster, or spread to other tissues or parts of the body.
  5. To be clear, at this time it is NOT recommended to use stem cell therapy in dogs with cancer or if cancer is suspected in your dog.
  6. There is a study done by Dr. Thamm of Colorado State University, that showed that stem cells promoted the growth of certain types of cancer, such as sarcomas, and it inhibited the growth of other types of cancer, such as blood-derived tumors. The conclusion of this study was that it is still a safety concern to use stem cells in dogs with known cancer, and a thorough screening should be performed before considering stem cell therapy in your dog.

Stem cell therapy is currently in the early stages of research and clinical use. There are no current guidelines or regulations for treatment, so it is best to talk to your veterinarian about whether or not your dog is a good candidate for stem cell therapy. Your veterinarian will also determine if your dog is a good anesthetic candidate since anesthesia is required for treatment. If your dog is considered a good candidate for therapy, your veterinarian can help you find a facility to perform this cutting-edge treatment.

Useful sources for further reading

  1. https://www.americanveterinarian.com/journals/amvet/2018/february2018/stem-cell-therapy-in-veterinary-medicine
  2. https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/stem-cell-therapy
  3. http://siriusvet.com/regenerative-medicine
  4. http://www.akcchf.org/canine-health/top-health-concerns/canine-cancer/update-1876.html
  5. https://animalwellnessmagazine.com/stem-cell-therapy/

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