by Susan Wright
Susan Wright is a veterinary surgeon associated with Dog Fence DIY LLC who offered to do a guest post here on PETSblogs in response to Stem Cell Treatment Helps Canine Hip Dysplasia & Arthritis. Of course, we jumped at the opportunity to learn more about how veterinarians in the field are using this treatment. If you’d like to learn more, please continue reading. And then check out the website noted in the bio at the end of this post . . .
Stem cell therapy sounds wonderful – a simple injection of tissue from your dog’s own body results in less pain in the joints, and a new lease on life, with none of the potential side effects of conventional arthritis medication.
Certainly, there are peer reviewed research papers which do confirm that this treatment does in fact work. But, how are veterinarians in the field using this treatment, and are they finding it as effective as the research suggests?
It can be difficult for veterinarians in private practice to follow up on how effective this treatment is – at this stage it doesn’t appear to be used as frequently as medication, so there aren’t many animals to assess. Often if an animal is doing well, veterinarians don’t hear back from their owners regarding how their pet is feeling.
There have been reports from veterinarians that improvement has been seen in dogs within 30 days of stem cell treatment, and can persist for over a year. Given that this treatment is so new, it’s important that both vets and clients do communicate with each other, so veterinarians can get a good idea of how effective stem cell therapy is in different arthritic conditions.
The stifle is a common spot for osteoarthritis in the dog, often secondary to rupture or partial rupture of the cranial cruciate ligament. Vets have found that stem cell therapy can indeed help, however the effects don’t seem to last forever. There have been reports of osteoarthritis still occurring after cruciate rupture, even when stem cells have been injected into the joint. Even though there may be arthritic changes in a joint visible on x-ray, the important part is that in many cases, dogs are functionally better after stem cell therapy – they have less pain, and are more mobile.
Another part of the body that is often affected by osteoarthritis is the elbow, and again, reports are favorable – one veterinarian found a dog with end-stage osteoarthritis had 30% improvement in joint function. That’s a big improvement to that dog’s quality of life.
Research has found some incidences where the use of stem cell therapy is a bad idea. It is not recommended if your dog is battling cancer, because these stem cells may contribute to the maintenance of cancer stem cells. Because stem cell therapy can also suppress the immune system, it’s important not to use it if your dog is fighting infection.
In conclusion, it appears that reports from veterinarians do confirm the findings of research papers; stem cell therapy can be very helpful in treating osteoarthritis, and improving the well being of affected dogs. However, as a veterinarian, I do try to avoid the “one treatment fits all” approach. As with any decisions on your pet’s care, you and your veterinarian need to work together to develop the best treatment option for your individual dog and your individual circumstances, and that must take into consideration budgetary restraints and whether or not your dog has any concurrent illness.
Stem cell therapy appears to be a great addition to our armory of treatments for osteoarthritis in dogs. It’s currently being investigated as a treatment of other diseases in companion animals and, in the future, may be beneficial to many more of our patients. I look forward to it.
Susan Wright is a veterinarian associated with Dog Fence DIY LLC. Dog Fence DIY can supply everything you need for your own underground dog fence, and show you how to install it.