Owners of senior dogs will be the first to tell you that none of a dog's happiness and lust for life is lost with age; unfortunately, the body of an older dog can start to fail him or her long before their spirit does. Older dogs are more vulnerable to a range of illnesses and ailments than their younger counterparts, but one of the most common and difficult to treat is canine osteoarthritis.
What is canine osteoarthritis?
Canine osteoarthritis is very similar to the human form of the disease, and is characterised by a loss of cartilage and connective tissue within the joints of your dog, most typically around the knees and hips. Without this layer of padding and protective tissue, the bones of your dog's joints start to grind against one another, leading to a range of symptoms.
Osteoarthritis presents different symptoms in every dog that suffers from it, but the most noticeable symptom is generally alterations to the way your dog walks and runs. They may become noticeable stiffer when moving, and may be more reluctant to engage in physical activity due to the accompanying pain of the condition. You may also find that your dog recoils from being touched in affected areas. Advanced cases of the disease can result in chronic pain, depressing your dog's mood and having a nasty impact on their overall quality of life.
How can stem cell therapy be used to treat canine osteoarthritis?
In years gone by, there were two main options when it came to treating canine osteoarthritis; invasive surgery or a cocktail of painkilling drugs and anti-inflammatory medications. In many cases, both have to be used before a dog regains sufficient mobility and pain relief to go home.
However, a more modern treatment has emerged that can supplement, and in some cases, even replace, the need for these extreme measures. Stem cell therapy has shown extremely promising results in clinical trials, and veterinarians across the country now offer it as a specialised treatment for cases of canine osteoarthritis.
The stem cell therapy process is actually rather simple. First, stem cells are taken from your dog under a general anaesthesia (usually from fatty deposits around the shoulder, but more rarely from bone marrow). These stem cells, once properly processed, are capable of copying the structure of surrounding tissues and can help your dog 'regrow' the damaged connective tissue that has worn away inside their joints. They are injected into the affected joints in your dog while the dog is fully conscious, and the afflicted pet can generally return home the same day.
Why should I choose stem cell therapy to treat my dog?
This progressive approach to canine osteoarthritis treatment can be slow to take effect compared to surgery or powerful analgesics, but the benefits can be well worth it. Stem cell therapy has a number of advantages when compared to traditional canine osteoarthritis treatment methods:
- Reduced pain compared to surgery
- Dramatically reduced recovery times
- Minimised use of anaesthetics, which can cause severe health problems in some dogs
- Reduced need for painkillers and corticosteroids, along with their accompanying side effects
- Extremely low chance of infection or immune system rejection, especially when compared to surgical implants
- Once your dog's stem cells have been prepared for therapy, the procedure can usually be carried out within the space of a few hours