For many years stem cell therapy has been utilized in human medicine. Although there remains some controversy concerning stem cell therapy for humans; many veterinarians are now performing stem cell therapy using adult stem cells aimed at both improving the health and physical condition for beloved pets. In fact, stem cell therapy is becoming a widely accepted and rapidly-growing treatment modality.
What are stem cells?
Stem cells are uniquely different from regular cells in that they are unspecialized cells that have the potential to evolve into a variety of cell types in the body and are capable of renewing themselves through cell division even after they are inactive for long periods of time. Stem cells have the capacity of developing into a tissue or organ-specific cells that have specialized functions, becoming a kind of “internal repair system.”
Stem cells naturally emanate in the body and are attracted to damaged areas, acting rapidly to repair damaged tissue. Research has demonstrated that stem cells work effectively in restoring injured bone tissue, cartilage, heal impaired cells, reduce inflammation and pain and also prevent further deterioration of cells and, most importantly, stimulate tissue regeneration.
Which medical conditions respond well to stem cell therapy?
Many conditions in cats and dogs such as osteoarthritis, injuries to tendons, bones, ligaments and many other diseases have been treated favorably with adult stem cell therapy. Stem cell therapy has enabled cats to be treated successfully for feline chronic gingivostomatitis (stomatitis); a painful oral disease in cats. Another chronic condition that has also been successful with stem cell therapy in cats and dogs is inflammatory bowel disease.
In addition to the conditions previously listed, new compassionate use cases are being performed and tested by labs around the world. We know less about these conditions, but are seeing some exciting results. Some of those conditions are: degenerative myelopathy, feline gingivitis, end-stage renal disease, liver and kidney failure, allergies, auto-immune disease, inflammatory bowel disease, pulmonary fibrosis, atopy and spinal trauma.
How is stem cell therapy for pets performed?
Stem cell therapy practiced in human medicine significantly may differ from the stem cell therapy given to pets. In human stem cell therapy, fetal cells may be used, whereas stem cell therapy for pets use only adult stem cells harvested from the pet’s own body; eliminating the risk of rejection and allows the body to safely heal itself. There are no ethical issues involved in stem cell therapy for pets since fetal cells are not utilized.
FloridaWild Veterinary Hospital works with MediVet Biologics, the global leader in veterinary regenerative medicine using adipose stem cells. After the pet is put under general anesthesia, the veterinarian harvests the stem cells by removing two to four ounces of fat from either the belly or between the shoulder blades; a procedure that takes about an hour. The veterinarian may also draw a small amount of the pet’s blood to harvest the platelet rich plasma (PRP) to be added to these stem cells. The cells are isolated, activated and then re-introduced into the pet’s body. In most cases, MediVet Biologic’s technology allows the procedure to be completed in one day permitting the pet to go home the same day.
Is stem cell therapy appropriate for all pets’ medical conditions?
Although stem cell therapy has enhanced the lives of many pets, this therapy may not be appropriate for every animal’s condition. Before initiating any stem cell therapy, pets will receive appropriate screening tests such as x-rays and blood tests to rule out cancers or other underlying diseases.
What is the recovery time for stem cell therapy?
Stem cell therapy has been reported to be highly successful in improving the lives of pets. Studies have demonstrated a high rate of success in pets that have received this safe and effective therapy. In canine stem cell clinical trials, some dogs on daily non-steroidal and anti-inflammatory medications were able to have these drugs significantly reduced or even eliminated within about 90 days.
How long will the positive results of stem cell therapy last?
FloridaWild Veterinary Hospital recommends that for the first two weeks after the procedure that the pet’s activity level is limited. Even though the pet is feeling so much better, it is crucial to limit their physical activity so the cells can work their “magical” repairs. Owners typically will see improvements within the first two weeks and positive results continuing that range from 18 to 24 months.
Banking stem cells for future use:
Banking cells is an elective surgery to harvest stem cells. They are frozen and stored for future use if necessary. The pet’s fat cells can be extracted during routine procedures requiring general anesthesia such as neutering, spaying or dental work. Should symptoms recur, your veterinarian can simply request a dose of your pet’s banked cells from the MediVet Biologics banking facilities where they are stored and inject them into the pet with no additional surgery needed. Although most pet health insurance companies cover the cost of stem cell therapy, since harvesting in advance is considered elective, insurance will not cover it.
In celebration of Stem Cell Therapy Month, FloridaWild Veterinary Hospital is offering $100 off Stem Cell Therapy procedures, $15 off stem cell retrievals and a 50% discount ($75) on the initial stem cell banking fee.
By Jo Singer, MSW, CSW, LCSW (Ret.)
To watch Kerry process some stem cells, click HERE.