STEVENSVILLE, Mich. – The use of stem cells has become quite the debate in this country, but what about using them to help our pets? Veterinarians are now injecting stem cells into animals to fix a host of problems. One veterinarian in Stevensville has already treated four dogs at his clinic.
Hannah, an 8-year-old yellow lab from Niles, just had the treatment done on Monday.
"They harvested her own stem cells that are dormant in your fat cells, somehow reactivated them and re-injected them into her," said Carrie Schufelt, Hannah's owner.
Schufelt says Hannah has been suffering from arthritis for the past few years. She has had dozens of visits to the vet and has also been on medication, but when Schufelt learned stem cells could stop the medication and limit those vet visits, she got on board.
"It's not going to cure the calcification that's already happened with the arthritis, but hopefully it will make things a lot easier without medication," Schufelt said.
To get the procedure done, Schufelt took Hannah to Veterinarian Phil Hecht at Lakeshore Animal Health Care in Stevensville. His clinic just recently started the stem cell therapy treatment.
"I've personally done four of these, I've assisted five others," Hecht said.
Hecht says every animal has stem cells in their fat. All he has to do is separate those cells from the fat, activate them using LED lights and then inject the stem cells into the animal.
In Hannah, he removed fat from her side from about a five-inch incision. He injected the stem cells into her arthritic joints. In theory, those cells will transform into good tissue, helping to fix Hannah's arthritis.
"We're looking at everything from treating neurological diseases, as well as arthritic diseases, as well as re-building certain structures on the body," Hecht said, "It's truly the most exciting thing in 47 years I've ever seen."
Schufelt is waiting to see if the stem cell treatment worked, but one day after the surgery, her dog is already showing some signs of improvement.
"You just have to wait and see how well it's going to do for her," Schufelt said.
Right now, the treatments can be used for joint pain, damage to cartilage and tendons, and arthritis.
Hecht says similar treatments have been used on people as well.
A normal treatment for a dog is about $1,800.