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Stem cell therapy has gone to the dogs.. literally. A growing number of veterinarians now offer stem cell
therapy to calm the inflammation and joint pain caused by arthritis in our pets. Here's how it works. The vet
removes some fat from your dog and ships it to Vet-Stem, a lab in California.
There, adult stem cells are isolated from the fat. Some are frozen and saved in case their needed in the
future. The rest are sent back to the vet. The doctor injects them into his sedated patient by I-V and by
syringe. Proponents say it works within a few weeks to ease the inflammation and pain and your dog can
resume his active play life. It's not cheap. The initial treatment costs two to three thousand dollars.
If additional treatments are needed in the future, the vet can use the cells left over and frozen from the first
treatment. The cost for a second procedure is cheaper.. running 300-400 dollars to cover anesthesia and
recovery. Critics argue there's not enough comparative research to show that this expensive treatment is
more effective than the cheaper, traditional therapy such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or
injections of cortisone or hyaluronic acid. I interviewed Dr. James Schuessler for my story on stem cell
therapy. He says while the initial outlay is higher for stem cells, the cost for the traditional treatments are
ongoing. He adds that these medicines can often run close to 200 dollars a month. Dr. Schuessler agrees
that more research in needed. That's why he is one of a growing number of veterinarians who is working
with Vet-Stem to collect data to confirm the effectiveness of stem cell therapy.
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They're hoping to find that the cells not only fight inflammation, but also help grow new cartilage.
Meanwhile, Dr. Schuessler says he has treated about a dozen patients, involving about 40 stem cell
treatments.. and nearly every pet owner has been extremely pleased with the results. Those patients
involved everything from a seven month old dog with a genetic problem that caused elbow dysplasia and
arthritis.. to a 12-year old former show dog with arthritis. Stem cell therapy was used in horses before
doctors started using it in smaller animals such as dogs and cats.
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