Stem Cell Therapy for Arthritic Pets


Arthritis is an important disease in geriatric dogs and is also becoming more widely recognized in cats. Estimates indicate as many as one in five dogs will suffer from arthritis as they age. This is the second in a two-part series on arthritis. The first blog covered the standard therapies for treatment of arthritis. This blog features expert information from Dr. Pamela Schwartz, Diplomate American College of Veterinary Surgery, of The AMC’s Surgery Department. She has an interest in the use of stem cells for the treatment of canine arthritis.

Stem cells are purified mesenchymal stem cells harvested from subcutaneous (under the skin) fat in dogs. These stem cells are not the controversial embryonic stem cells we hear about on the evening news, but they do possess the ability to develop into any cell in the body. In animal models, researchers have shown these stem cells have the ability to develop into cartilage cells if they are injected into the appropriate environment. Once they are injected into an inflamed, arthritic joint, they will turn into new cartilage cells to help repair the damage caused by osteoarthritis. 

osteoarthritisEvery dog is not a candidate for stem cell therapy. Stem cell therapy is currently indicated for osteoarthritis and is not considered applicable to other chronic medical or neurological conditions. Dogs with cancer are not good candidates for this treatment. If there is a surgically repairable disease (i.e., ligament tear), we recommend surgery and reserve the use of stem cells for the future. 

Owners interested in having their dog evaluated for stem cell therapy must have a consultation with a stem cell credentialed veterinarian (The AMC currently has five stem cell credentialed doctors, including Dr. Schwartz). The evaluation includes a physical examination, blood work and chest radiographs.

stem-cell-injectionIf the dog is found to be a good candidate for stem cell therapy, an outpatient “fat harvest” will be scheduled. During the harvest, a small incision is made in either the groin, behind the shoulder blade, or into the abdomen. The dog is discharged from the hospital the same evening and the harvested fat is shipped overnight for processing. Forty-eight hours later, when the stem cells arrive back at AMC, the stem cells are injected into the affected joints while the dog is under sedation. Multiple joints may be injected on the same day and we’ve seen good results in arthritis of the hips, knees and elbows. 

Following stem cell therapy, the degree of lameness is reevaluated 30, 60 and 90 days after the injection. During these visits, both the owners and the vets will evaluate the degree of lameness to assess the dog’s improvement. We are pleased with the results we have seen in the patients we have treated with stem cells. They can go for longer walks, jump on and off the bed again and have a more comfortable life. 

For further information about stem cell therapy at The AMC or to schedule a consultation, please call Dr. Pamela Schwartz at 212.329.8756.

The Department of Surgery at The AMC
The surgeons at The AMC, who are certified by the American College of Veterinary Surgery, provide seven-day-per-week expertise, state-of-the-art surgical techniques and emergency surgical care.  We also offer specialty services such as veterinary dentistry, rehabilitation and pet fitness services, orthopedics and soft-tissue surgery.  Our surgeons work closely with internal medicine, oncology, radiology, critical care and pathology specialists to coordinate testing and to determine the least invasive and effective procedures necessary to optimize patient outcomes.

Orthopedic Surgery
• Marc E. Havig, DVM, DACVS
• Pamela Schwartz, DVM, DACVS
• Jason Syrcle, DVM

Soft Tissue Surgery
• Janet Kovak McClaran, DVM, DACVS
• Pamela Schwartz, DVM, DACVS
• Jason Syrcle, DVM

3 Responses to Stem Cell Therapy for Arthritic Pets

  1. What is Child Anxiety…

    […]Stem Cell Therapy for Arthritic Pets « Fur the Love of Pets[…]…

  2. Lowell Bruce Anderson says:

    There should be no religious objection to stem cell research using anamal models. If this research is successful, there should be no religious objection to stem cell therapy for pets. If this therapy is successful, will we live in a world in which we routinely treat animals for diseases using methods that we can’t use to treat humans with? I think not for long. Bruce

  3. Great article. There are more feathers to be crowned for the treatment using stem cells. Thanks for the

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