Regenerative medicine uses cells from your pet’s own body to help reduce arthritis pain and inflammation.
Is your pet showing signs of slowing down? Not catching the ball with as much gusto? Trouble or hesitation jumping up onto their favorite bird watching perch? Unfortunately, many of our beloved family members will start to suffer from arthritis as they age. The changes we see are slow and progressive, and often times we don’t necessarily notice until they are no longer able to do the thing they once loved and did with ease.
Alternatives to Pain Meds and Anti-inflammatories
For years, we have been treating these patients with pain medication and anti-inflammatories. While these medications can help to improve your pets quality of life, they don’t do anything to slow the painful changes occurring within the joint. They can also come with some undesirable side effects. But now we have other options to help ease your pets pain and help get them moving again. Using regenerative medicine therapies, we can use cells from your pets own body to not only help reduce arthritis pain and inflammation, but also in some cases to help reverse some of the damage being done within the joint itself.
What is Regenerative Medicine?
Regenerative medicine refers to process of using tissue or cells to repair or replace lost or damaged tissue. Within the scope of this discussion, we are talking about using cells from your pets own body to help reduce pain and inflammation associated with arthritis, and stimulate healthier cartilage and joint fluid. We do this through the use of platelet rich plasma or stem cell injections placed directly into the affected joints. With either of these therapies, the process will start with a full orthopedic exam and x-rays of your pets joints to determine which joints are in need of therapeutic intervention and to classify their level of arthritis. In some cases, we find changes that would respond better to orthopedic or surgical intervention, rather than regenerative medicine therapies.
Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) Injections
Platelet rich plasma (PRP) injections are used only for arthritic and degenerative joint conditions. This therapy involves lightly sedated your pet and drawing a blood sample. The blood is then run through a filter system that concentrates the platelets and the small portion of stem cells that circulate in the bloodstream, while excluding the red blood cells and most of the white blood cells. Once collected, the PRP is then immediately injected under sterile conditions into the arthritic joints.
What to Expect from Platelet Rich Plasma Injections
The injected cells have been shown to locally reduce inflammation and pain through various anti-inflammatory factors and growth factors present within the platelet cells. The cells also help to produce longer term effects by increasing blood flow to the areas of injection. Generally speaking, the anti-inflammatory and pain relieving effect of PRP injections can last anywhere from 6 months to 1.5 years depending on how diseased the joint being injected is.
Stem Cell Injections
Stem cell injections are also used to treat arthritic joints, but can also be used to treat tendon injuries, cartilage disorders, fractures and some autoimmune disorders. Where PRP collection and injection can be performed within 1-2 hours, stem cells collection and injection is a multi-step process occurring over several days to sometimes years. The process starts with the surgical collection of the falciform fat. This fat pad tends to have high concentrations of stem cells due to the large number of small blood vessels associated with it. The falciform fat is also most easily collected during a spay/neuter, or other abdominal surgical procedure. Once collected, the fat is stored in a stabilizing solution and immediately shipped to the VetStem laboratory for processing. Once the lab receives the sample, they immediately isolate, purify, and quantify the number of stem cells obtained from the patient. The newly collected stem cells can then either be shipped directly back to our hospital for injection later that week, or they can be frozen and stored for use at another time. Once a treatment time is determined, the patient will be dropped off, lightly sedated, and the stem cells injected into the diseased joints under sterile conditions.
What to Expect from Stem Cell Injections
Some mild inflammation and joint discomfort is to be expected for the first couple days after injection. For this reason, we recommend that you keep your pet quiet at home and let them rest. If your pet is currently taking Carprofen for pain and inflammation, we do ask that you stop the medication at least 7 days prior to the injection appointment, and for a minimum of 2 weeks after injection. This is because the active ingredient in NSAID medications will reduce the desired activity of the cells we are injecting into the arthritic joint. In the case that your pet is taking daily Carprofen, we will discuss other alternative and safe medication options with you during your consultation appointment. In general, you pet should be limited to mild or moderate exercise only for 2-4 weeks after injection, depending on the severity of the arthritis being treated.
Learn More About Treatment Options
For more information on Stem Cell or Platelet Rich Plasma treatments, or to determine if your pet could benefit from treatment, please call the office to schedule a consultation with one of our doctors.
Frequently Asked Questions
Some insurance companies cover stem cell and platelet-rich plasma treatments.
PRP is a very effective therapy for certain orthopedic conditions.
Most dogs respond within the first 1 to 2 weeks. Some may take longer.
Generally speaking, the anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effect of PRP injections can last anywhere from 6 months to 1.5 years depending on how diseased the joint being injected is.
Yes. Stem cell treatment has been available for dogs for over ten years.
Stem cell injections last 1 – 3 years.
Stem cell injections are also used to treat arthritic joints, but can also be used to treat tendon injuries, cartilage disorders, fractures, and some autoimmune disorders.