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Stem cell therapy for pets

Vet-office treatment helps animals feel better and improves quality of life

Posted: July 18, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: July 18, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Veterinarian Kimberly Caruso harvests stem cells from tissue that stores fat as staff work on Liberty, a German Shepherd, at Valencia Veterinary Center.  Veterinarian Kimberly Caruso harvests stem cells from tissue that stores fat as staff work on Liberty, a German Shepherd, at Valencia Veterinary Center. 
Veterinarian Kimberly Caruso harvests stem cells from tissue that stores fat as staff work on Liberty, a German Shepherd, at Valencia Veterinary Center. 

Suffering from chronic, painful arthritis in their joints and hips, canines Lady and Liberty were treated with stem cell therapy last week at Valencia Veterinary Center.

Lady is a 14-year-old Labrador Retriever, said the center’s owner, Dr. Baljit Grewal. Liberty is a 10-year-old German Shepherd.

The procedure involves taking fat tissue from the animal to harvest healthy stem cells, and reintroducing them into the injured area, said Thomas Masterson, vice president of sales for MediVet America — the company that took the technology and repackaged it in the form of equipment and took kits for use by veterinarians.

Bringing the technology direct to the local vet’s office saves pet owners time and money, Masterson said.

As with Lady and Liberty, dogs being treated with the stem cell procedure have most likely exhausted all other treatment options, Grewal said.

Pets with chronic conditions have often been given pain medications and supplements to treat the injured areas, he said.

In worse case scenarios, hip replacement becomes an option of last resort for dogs that become really old, Grewal said. But that surgery can cost between $7,000 and $10,000.

By comparison, stem cell treatment can cost about $1,800 for dogs and $2,400 for horses, Masterson said. Cats can also be treated.

While stem cell treatment for animals was first brought to market in 2004 by a California-based Vet Stem, MediVet America created the means by which veterinarians could perform the entire procedure in their own office, within one day, Masterson said.

Doing so reduced costs by nearly half, he said.

While the stem cell procedure is a newer treatment approach in the past decade, the American Veterinary Medical Foundation has not yet endorsed it, but the group does say it holds great promise for new therapeutic strategies in the fight against diseases and injuries of animals and humans.

The American Veterinary Medical Association, however, does support both the study and use of animal stem cells for regenerative therapies – which would include stem cell treatments for severe arthritis in dogs and horses.

MediVet America brought the stem cell therapy to market for use in veterinarian’s office in 2010, Masterson said.

“Treatment options can be used with animals suffering from osteoarthritis, tendon and ligament injuries, and aid the healing times in fractures,” he said.

The company has introduced its onsite equipment and stem cell kits in some 450 veterinarian practices nationwide.

Providing veterinarians with the equipment and kits to treat animals out of their local practice reduced costs by nearly half, he said.

Of the 170 million dogs and cats in the United States, experts say that osteoarthritis is the number cause of chronic pain or lameness in animals.

It’s estimated that over 20 percent of dogs suffer from the sometimes debilitating condition and that 90 percent of cats over 12 years of age have some form of it.

Stem cell treatments can bring relief for most animals, on average, within 18 to 24 months, Masterson said.

MediVet America also provides the doctors cell banking, or cryogenic storing services, which can be sent back out to the veterinarian’s practice for later treatment, he said.

Prior to MediVet America veterinarians had to extract fat tissue and ship it to the California company, and then wait 48 hours for the extracted stem cells to be returned to the doctor’s practice.

That meant the patient and pet owner had to keep appointments on two separate days for the treatment, Masterson said.

Improving the efficiency so that the treatment could be performed all on the same day in a clinic made it a lot more affordable for pets and pet owners, he said.

“We like to stay on the cutting edge and provide the latest innovations in the field of vet medicine,” Grewal said. “There have been a lot of good reviews from specialists in the field and the results have been really promising. The animals feel better and it improves the quality of life.”




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