House calls

Old dogs can walk

Stem cell therapy in dogs

By JOSEPH A. D’ABBRACCIO, D.V.M.
Posted 2/12/20

Animals age much faster than people do; because of that, their joints can certainly sustain some severe damages and stresses. One of the many struggles with the aging process is that the mind is …

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House calls

Old dogs can walk

Stem cell therapy in dogs

Posted

Animals age much faster than people do; because of that, their joints can certainly sustain some severe damages and stresses. One of the many struggles with the aging process is that the mind is often as sharp as it was in the prime of life, and this holds true in animals as well. Most recently I was faced with a very difficult and stressful situation with one of my own dogs. Wally is a 10-year-old Labrador retriever who has lived with me for the last three years since being retired as a stud dog. During that time, Wally had some very puzzling medical issues that left many veterinarians scratching their heads. Wally developed hind-limb weakness, urinary bladder function issues and vision issues, none of which could be explained even after two full-body MRIs and spinal fluid sampling. Initially, we suspected that Wally had a spinal tumor and would be completely paralyzed in 12 months. That 12-month period came and went and he was still doing very well. Two months ago, Wally started to have some worsening hind-leg issues. We scheduled a second MRI and the areas of concern we saw a year prior were gone. We did not have an answer for his clinical signs. However, in the last four weeks, Wally had severely declined. He was not able to use his hind legs for more than four steps without falling to the ground. An unfortunate reality every pet owner may be familiar with, we were concerned that we may have to end Wally’s suffering. In what was essentially a last and final “Hail Mary” maneuver, we elected to perform a stem cell harvest and infusion with Wally.

Stem cells are simply juvenile cells that have the ability to develop into many different cell types such as bone cells, muscle cells and even brain cells. There are four types of stem cells: embryonic cells, tissue-specific cells, mesenchymal cells and induced pluripotent stem cells. We can collect mesenchymal cells via fat collection from a patient. We also collect blood samples to create platelet-rich plasma which is a solution rich in the donor’s platelets which accelerate healing. In cases like Wally’s, we collect 20-40 grams of fat and six tubes of blood. This procedure takes about 15 minutes. We then process the samples be extracting the stem cells from the fat tissue and then infusing it with the platelets from the blood collected. The mesenchymal cells are charged or activated by light energy and then mixed with the platelet mixture. Once mixed, the cells are injected into the sites of most need, often the joints, and also given as an intravenous infusion.

It has been two weeks since Wally’s implantation at Catskill Veterinary Services and he has made substantial improvement. He is now able to move from one place to another without assistance, including getting up and down three steps. Unfortunately, at this time his vision has not returned, but his blinking ability is stronger and we are actually able to see more of his eye. I believe he is able to see better than he could two weeks ago. Wally also appears to have more energy than he did two weeks ago, interacting with the other dogs in the house. Wally will undergo another stem cell administration from the stored cell sample in two weeks with a possible third administration 30 days after that.

While this procedure is not new to veterinary medicine, it is certainly a new tool in our toolbox. I would argue that it has certainly helped improve Wally’s life and I am eager to see how he responds to the subsequent treatments. Stem cell therapy can be used as part of a number of conditions such as arthritis, kidney disease, auto-immune issues (allergies), nerve damage, tendon damage and cancers. Not every patient may be a candidate for this treatment, but we certainly encourage people to consider it for their dog, cat, horse and alike. The results have been nothing short of astonishing.

 Catskill Veterinary Services, PLLC
www.catskillvetservices.com

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