These are regenerative treatments that make up some of the many options these days for managing pain and improving the quality of life of a pet with arthritis. We often use a combination of these to achieve optimum results, and the specifics will vary from pet to pet.
Stem cell therapy
Stem cell therapy is a method of introducing healthy cells into damaged tissues and stimulating them to heal and repair themselves. Stem cell therapy has been part of human medicine for decades, and has recently become an option for veterinary patients, especially as a treatment for osteoarthritis. We’ve incorporated stem cells into our practice since 2013, and it is an effective and low-risk treatment option for many dogs and cats.
Adult stem cells are found in fat tissue and in the bone marrow, and they have the ability to grow into a variety of different tissues, depending on the environment they are placed into. Stem cells injected into a joint will become cartilage, and will thereby repair the damaged cartilage of the joint as well as improve circulation and nutrition to joint surfaces, and reduce the pain and inflammation in the joint. Most dogs will show a marked improvement within 4 weeks, and the improvement lasts anywhere form 6-24 months.
Stem cell therapy involves surgically collecting a small amount of body fat (approximately the size of a 50p coin) from beneath the skin during a short general anaesthetic. A veterinary tissue laboratory isolates the stem cells from the fat sample, and grows them in culture until they build up adequate numbers. They are then returned to us in a sterile culture medium ready for injection into the joint. A significant decrease in pain and lameness is usually seen within 3-4 weeks, and can last anywhere from 6 months to several years.
Platelet-rich plasma therapy (Dogs Only)
Platelets are blood cells which, when activated, release a number of anti-inflammatory factors, growth factors that promote wound healing and tissue regeneration, and stimulate stem cell activity. When injected into a joint, they decrease inflammation and pain, promote cartilage repair and improve circulation to the joint. Dogs should show improvement within 12 weeks (most much sooner), and the improvement lasts from 6-12 months. The procedure involves either a sedation or a general anaesthetic (depending on the dog and the joints being treated). The required volume of blood is drawn from the dog, and filtered to separate the platelet-rich plasma component. This process takes about 15 minutes. The platelets are then injected into the joints – there is usually enough platelets to treat 2 joints, sometimes 3-4 depending on the size of the dog. Any excess platelet-rich plasma can be frozen and stored for repeat use for up to 2 years.
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