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Breed & Health Resources

Stem-Cell Therapy for Dogs

By Dr. Laci Schaible

collie getting a vet check up

Today stem-cell therapy is more readily available to pets than people. It's time to read up!

Regenerative medicine has been gaining spotlight time for years now in human medicine. In stark contrast to the restrictive and lengthy regulatory processes of stem-cell therapy in human medicine, animal treatment involving stem cells is mostly unregulated and races forward.


What Is Stem-cell Therapy?

In stem-cell therapy, the dog’s own stem cells are used to generate growth, help repair damaged tissue, and ease pain in pets suffering from a variety of ailments such as:

The promise of stem cells comes in that they are blank building blocks that can become bone, cartilage, tendons, or fatty tissue.

Some pet parents may tense up when they hear “stem cell” because of the controversy surrounding these words in human medicine and research. Rest assured, this type of therapy uses the dog’s own adult stem cells, which are typically found in the bone marrow and fat, not embryonic stem cells.

What Is The Process Like?

The veterinarian collects fat tissue—an area rich in stem cells—from the dog typically under general anesthesia. That collected tissue is then processed (either in-house or at an outside lab) to further concentrate those cells. Once the stem cells are processed, the veterinarian simply injects them back into the dog’s affected area.

Once the stem cells are reintroduced into the patient’s body, they reduce inflammation and pain and spur a healing process that can regenerate tissue. Initial improvements from the therapy can be seen anywhere from a week or two to a month after treatment.

Treatment can be repeated when the effects start to wear off, typically between six and 18 months. While some dogs don’t ever need stem-cell therapy again, many need a repeat treatment within a year or two. Extra cells are stored from the original procedure so that animals that do repeat the treatment don’t have to go through sample collection again.

Do All Veterinarians Offer This?

Veterinarians wanting to establish a stem-cell therapy program in their practices must first become certified, a process available through online training. Some companies offer a free, nationally-approved, online course in regenerative medicine to learn how to implement stem-cell therapy in a veterinary clinic, so if your veterinarian isn't currently offering this, encourage him to do so!

How Much Does Stem-cell Therapy Cost For a Dog?

Fees for stem-cell therapy vary depending on the animal, but a typical cost to pet parents is in the $2,500 to $3,500 range. This costs can fluctuate due to your dog’s current conditions, number of injections, x-rays, the procedure itself.

Is Stem-cell Therapy Covered By Insurance?

Stem cell therapy is covered by Embrace Pet Insurance for covered conditions.

Opinions

Advocates say the therapy can bring subtle improvements, as well as sometimes dramatic changes that can help turn an arthritic Retriever into a more energetic pup. A big advantage of stem-cell therapies is that they offer relief for pets without drug therapy.

Skeptics don't question the potential of stem cell therapy, but they contend more research is needed to prove its effectiveness--and it unarguably is.

Regardless, the lack of definitive answers doesn't seem to be a stopping point for this new line of therapy in veterinary medicine. 

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Pet health insurance is administered by Embrace Pet Insurance Agency, LLC and underwritten by one of the licensed insurers of American Modern Insurance Group, Inc., including American Modern Home Insurance Company d/b/a in CA as American Modern Insurance Company (Lic. No 2222-8), and American Southern Home Insurance Company. Coverage is subject to policy terms, conditions, limitations, exclusions, underwriting review, and approval, and may not be available for all risks or in all states. Rates and discounts vary, are determined by many factors, and are subject to change. Wellness Rewards is offered as a supplementary, non-insurance benefit administered by Embrace Pet Insurance Agency in the United States. © 2020 American Modern Insurance Group, Inc.  Wellness Rewards not available in Rhode Island.