A revolutionary treatment is offering a brighter future for man’s best friend. One local veterinarian is using stem cells to treat dogs in severe, debilitating pain, like Lucky.
If there’s one word to describe Lucky, it’s enthusiastic. She’s always on the go as we found when we recently stopped by the D.C. home of the Fischers.
“She is like another child in our family,” said Nicole Fischer. “She loves the ball. Whether it’s in the ocean, in our backyard, at the dog park.”
But last summer, the six -year-old Chocolate Lab could barely get around, unable to put weight on her left hind leg.
“She seemed to be having trouble getting up after she would lay down or she played,” says Fischer.
X-rays showed Lucky suffered from degeneration in her hip joint and severe arthritis. It’s a problem often found in large breed dogs. The Fischers worried about doing a total hip replacement.
“It’s extremely invasive and a very, very long recovery. She’s a very active dog. And it isn’t always effective,” said Fischer.
So the family turned to Georgetown Veterinarian, Dr. Lee Morgan. He is the first in D.C. to offer adult stem therapy on dogs. It is a cutting edge treatment that could actually help repair joints by growing new cartilage.
"The idea is that perhaps as we inject the stem cell into a joint that it can help repair that cartilage, not just cover up the pain but actually repair the damage done,” said Dr. Morgan.
Dr. Morgan gets the stem cells from the dog’s own fat, normally removing it from the abdomen.
“We send that to the lab. They purify that and then the next day they send us back the purified stem cells,” said Dr. Morgan.
He injects that into the affected joint. For Lucky, Dr. Morgan injected the stem cells on the hip joint and on the knee joint.
It’s a quick three-day process. But as with any treatment, there’s no guarantee.
“Dr. Morgan was pretty upfront with us saying we really don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Fischer.
Dr. Morgan says nationwide, there has been about an 80 percent success rate. And the Fischer’s dog was one of the lucky ones. They have seen improvements within a month.
“We took her to the beach after a month and she was swimming in the ocean, surfing the waves. Absolutely, she is a new dog. I mean she’s young. She needed to have her life back,” said Fischer.
Stem cell therapy for pets is pricey, running around $3,500. But the stem cells can be stored and used in the future over and over.
"We’re just beginning to explore the potential of this therapy,” said Dr. Morgan.
He hopes stem cells can one day lead to cures for other pet problems like nerve and liver disease. The therapy has been used for years with horses. Dr. Morgan says it is still being investigated whether it can help other pets like cats.
To find out more about pet stem cell therapy:
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