Although you may have learned about stem cell therapy and thought this cutting-edge treatment modality was limited to human medicine, advancements now allow pets to benefit from the healing power of stem cells. Here at Marina Village Integrative Care, we’re delighted to offer stem cell therapy to our patients in need of this advanced treatment. 

What is stem cell therapy for pets?

To understand how stem cell therapy works, consider stem cells as blank slates that have the ability to become any type of cell, and the potential to regenerate tissue in a damaged body part that has lost function. This makes stem cell therapy particularly beneficial for pets with osteoarthritis, since this degenerative joint disease gradually causes loss of joint cartilage. With stem cell therapy, stem cells can be “trained” to turn into cartilage, creating a new, functional, pain-free joint.

Our stem cell therapy uses stem cells from the bone marrow, umbilical cord blood, or fat from your pet or another same-species animal. The stem cells are injected into the diseased area, such as a knee joint damaged by osteoarthritis, and they then move to the inflamed or damaged tissue, where they suppress the inflammation, relieve pain, and cause new tissue growth. The new tissue is more like the original tissue than the scar tissue that would typically grow in an untreated, inflamed area, and therefore more functional and less painful.

What is stem cell therapy used to treat in pets?

Most commonly, stem cell therapy in pets is used to treat osteoarthritis, as well as bone, joint, ligament, tendon, and spinal cord injuries. Many pets whose bodies are aging and losing mobility, and may seem to be nearing the end, can experience rejuvenation of painful, failing joints. With more research and improvements, the hope is that stem cell therapy can help pets with stomatitis, kidney disease, atopic dermatitis, and inflammatory bowel disease. 

What will happen to my pet undergoing stem cell therapy?

If your pet and their condition are ideal candidates for stem cell therapy, they will undergo an outpatient appointment at Marina Village Integrative Care, which means they do not need to be kept overnight. To collect your pet’s stem cells, we follow this process:

  1. We anesthetize your pet to ensure they are unconscious and comfortable during the procedure.
  2. Next, we make a small abdominal incision, and harvest approximately 40 grams of abdominal fat. The abdomen is the easiest place to obtain stem cells from your pet, so we choose this location and prefer not to use bone marrow.
  3. We use in-house equipment to process the fat, rather than sending it to an outside facility, which reduces treatment time and expense. 
  4. Our highly trained stem cell technicians process the cells, which takes four to six hours, and yields isolated stem cells that we infuse (i.e., inject) back into your pet. 
  5. A single stem cell treatment will not use all the harvested and processed cells, so the remainder, usually 8 to 10 vials of cells, are sent to an outside laboratory for further processing and cryostorage for future infusions. This saves your pet from undergoing anesthesia at each treatment.

We choose to use in-house stem cell processing equipment over an outside laboratory for the benefit of our patients and clients. Advantages include:

  • The ability to collect cells and infuse your pet the same day for faster results, versus 10 to 14 days if we sent the cells out for processing
  • Fresher stem cells
  • High—up to 99.5%—cell viability
  • Increased cost efficacy
  • Better quality control 

If your pet is not a good anesthesia candidate because of an underlying health condition, we can obtain amniotic stem cells from an outside facility. Otherwise, the stem cells used are always your pet’s own cells. 

What results can I expect from my pet’s stem cell treatment?

Although stem cell therapy seems like a miracle cure for painful and inflammatory diseases, there is no guarantee. But, we generally see good results in patients suffering from osteoarthritis or other orthopedic conditions that can benefit from regenerative cell therapy. Since the stem cells take time to repair the damaged area, you may not see the full results until about a month after the initial treatment. Typically, additional stem cell infusions are needed to achieve maximum efficacy, with a second infusion three to six months later, and a third treatment about one year after the initial treatment.

Are you interested in learning if your pet is a good candidate for stem cell therapy? Our Marina Village Integrative Care team would be happy to discuss your furry pal’s options, and how we can address the underlying cause of their condition, rather than treating only the signs. Contact our hospital to schedule a consultation.