SOUTH BEND —Some ailing pets are getting help from their body's own stem cells, thanks to scientific progress.
Western Veterinary Clinic on Monday removed a small bit of fat from the abdomen of Arrow, a 12-year-old golden retriever who has hip dysplasia and arthritis. After separating out and activating the dog's own stem cells in a process in the clinic laboratory, the cells a few hours later were restored to Arrow via injections into his joints.
He's the 12th canine patient the clinic has treated since April using a drug-free, stem cell kit offered by Kentucky-based MediVet-America.
"Fat has more stem cells in it than any other tissue," said Dr. Martin Langhofer, one of the veterinarians at the clinic at 25190 Indiana 2.
The stem cell treatment can be used for joint problems in dogs, cats and horses. It uses an animal's own stem cells to regenerate damaged tissue.
Pet stem cell therapies have been available for about 10 years, but the procedure originally involved removing fat from an ailing animal, shipping it to a laboratory elsewhere to be prepared, then shipping the treated cells back for injection. Now all the cell preparation can be done on site and the therapy completed the same day.
Dr. Chris Payton performed the procedure on Arrow, and colleague Dr. Chris Persing also has conducted some of the stem cell procedures.
"We don't know how they'll respond in each case. We have a good response in the majority of cases," Persing said.
"It's an opportunity to live a life that's not as painful," Langhofer said of the improvement in treated pets. "When animals don't feel good, they are going to hide and it's painful for them to struggle to stand up."
The therapy for a dog typically costs $1,800 to $4,000, he said. A dog must be placed under anesthesia for the procedure.
Molly, a golden retriever who is nearly 13 years old, underwent the stem cell procedure at the clinic in May.
Like many older dogs, Molly suffers from osteoarthritis. Molly is owned by Wanda Pulfer and Jay Crawley of South Bend.
"She's been a lot more active (since the procedure)," Pulfer said.
Stem cells don't provide a miracle cure. Molly sometimes still has trouble getting up when she is lying on a bare floor, but she's doing much better than before the stem cell procedure, Pulfer said.
Molly still undergoes canine acupunture and chiropractic sessions, but she's feeling and acting better, Pulfer said.
Staff writer Margaret Fosmoe: