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There’s been a lot of discussion lately on the use of stem cells in the treatment of chronic conditions in humans. The use of embryonic stem cells has ethical and sourcing concerns in that it raises the question of whether these cells are viable and if they will be rejected by the recipient. With animals, this is not a concern as stem cells are sourced and harvested from an animal’s own fat cells, offering little danger of rejection. It’s known that stem cells are regenerative, taking up residence around injured tissue. They have anti-inflammatory properties, but much of how and why they work is unknown.
The stem cells harvested from the animal’s tissue are adult cells and have been shown to help animals with arthritis and other degenerative conditions. Regenerative medicine as it’s referred to, first became available in 2004 when the first horse was treated with regenerative cell therapy for a tendon injury that would have normally been career ending. Since December 2010, more than 4000 horses have been treated. With dogs, a blind placebo controlled multi-center study showed that there was significant improvement in stem cell treated dogs with osteoarthritis of the hip. A credentialing course was developed in the US & Canada and more than 3000 veterinarians have been educated regarding its benefits.
Several years ago, I met a 5 year old lab who had debilitating arthritis. The owner learned about stem cell therapy and gave it a try. Within a few months there was a noticeable improvement in the dog’s ability to walk and play. Since then, I’ve become a believer. We’ve made great strides in treating joint disease and injuries that affect our dogs, and stem cell therapy may be an option.