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New stem cell therapies for dogs

Q: Our 10-year-old dog has been lame, and medications aren’t helping much. Our veterinarian took x-rays, diagnosed arthritis and recommended stem cell therapy. What can you tell us about this treatment?

A: In the new field of veterinary regenerative medicine, stem cell and platelet-rich plasma therapies are yielding impressive results. These therapies are helpful most often in dogs with osteoarthritis, also called degenerative joint disease, and in dogs with damaged tendons, ligaments and cartilage.

Stem cells obtained from the dog’s fat or bone marrow develop into other cells, including those that form bone, cartilage, tendons and ligaments. When stem cells are injected into an injured or diseased area, they create a scaffold for healing, break down scar tissue, decrease inflammation, stimulate new blood vessels and heal damaged tissues.

Research has shown that stem cells are effective in osteoarthritis, although dogs with severe disease respond better to a combination of stem cells and platelet-rich plasma (PRP). PRP is the fluid part of the blood processed to concentrate its platelets and growth factors. Because PRP stimulates stem cells, the two therapies often are combined.

Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine in Pennsylvania. Contact her at

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