Stem cell use in dogs is proving so successful, pet owners say it's like turning back the clock on their pet's life and a Poway laboratory is playing a key role in its development.
Bebe is eleven in dog years, that's 77 in human years but by the looks of her, you'd never know it. She was treated with stem cells about a year and a half ago and her quality of life has dramatically changed.
Gregg Miller talked about the therapy while watching his dog Bebe play at the dog park in Balboa Park, saying “I'm thrilled every time that she can do this.” It used to be that Bebe couldn't run or even walk very well - without limping. She had developed arthritis in her left elbow, and it just got progressively worse.
Miller had tried more than one anti-inflammatory, each in very large doses. “We were really searching for what we could possibly do,” he said. Then he heard of an alternative - stem cell treatment - but at a cost of $4,000, it was a tough decision.
“We don't have any children, and Bebe's like our child since we had her since she was a puppy so we said you know, we want her to be around and we want her to be happy for the rest of her life,” he said.
Stem cell treatments have been approved for use in dogs since 2005. The procedure itself is almost as simple as spaying an animal.
"So we make a small incision in the abdomen and we remove that fat, the more fat the better because the more fat you remove the more chance you have of obtaining more stem cells,said Bebe's vet, Holly Mullen, D.V.M.
Those stem cells are sent to a lab in Poway called Vet Stem - the only lab of its kind in the country. The stem cells are then cultured and sent back to the vet.
“There's about a 48 hour turn-around time in which they ship it back to us and we then inject it into the patient,” said Mullen.
Overall, this treatment has a 95 percent success rate reported in dogs and it's relatively risk-free.
“Because the current stem cell treatment we're using is derived from the patient's own cells, we don't have to worry about rejection, and we don't have to worry about the moral concerns about using embryonic stem cells,” said Mullen. “These are not embryonic stem cells these are stem cells from the patient's own fat.”
In Bebe's case about two weeks after injection, both her owners and her vet could see some improvement and she continued to improve.
“She just stopped with the limping, she began to run again,” said Miller.
“To date, there have been no negative effects reported in stem cell treatment and it's great to have a treatment modality that seems to be extremely safe for the patients, with no serious side effects,” said Mullen.
Stem cell treatments were first used in horses, almost twenty years ago. In the last few years, there have also been treatments developed for cats.
But it is becoming more popular as more pet owners find out about it.