One in five dogs will develop some type of osteoarthritis in their
lifetime. Large breed dogs are affected more than smaller breeds. The
heavier the dog is, the more likely it is to experience symptoms. It is a problem
that is of great concern to many dog owners and joint replacement is
prohibitively expensive for most. Now science is offering a new, more
affordable answer through the use of stem cells.English Mastiff (Photo by Fotosuabe/Creative Commons vis Wikimedia)English Mastiff (Photo by Fotosuabe/Creative Commons vis Wikimedia)

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that causes dogs pain and stiffness, and may cause them to limp. It is a progressive disease that will continue to make a dog more and more miserable and condemn them to life reliant on pain killers. Science and technology are aimed at changing all of that.

This is not the embryonic stem cells that have caused so much controversy over the past decade. These stem cells are harvested from the animals own adipose, or fat, tissue. Only a small incision is needed to remove the necessary cells. These cells are mixed with an enzyme and blood plasma rich in platelets. A quick spin in the old centrifuge and the cells are ready to go.

The cells are then injected into the damaged joint. The entire process only takes a couple of hours if the right equipment is available in the vet's office. In two to four weeks the healing effects should be noticeable.

Dogs that were once limping or stiff are becoming mobile and even mischievous once again. You may say that this therapy is giving these dogs a new "leash" on life. All trite expressions aside, dogs that have had this therapy are happy dogs to be mobile and out of pain. To them it must seem to be a miracle.

There is more research going on into using stem cells from other dogs of the same breed with a genetic line that does not show arthritis. Other areas of veterinary research into the use of stem cells include treatment of diabetes in both cats and dogs, kidney disease in cats, and dermatitis in dogs. Treatment for tendon and ligament damage in horses is also showing great promise. Within the next few years stem cell treatment in veterinary care could become routine. 

Sources:, Sydney Morning Herald, WebMD