Stem cell therapy is the process by which a tissue sample is obtained from the patient (either by fat or bone marrow extraction), and is then processed to isolate the stem cells, followed by administration back into the dog at the site of injury or disease by injection.
As most of you already will know I have a chocolate Labrador called Ozzy, who has suffered from arthritis from an early age. We recently found out he has elbow dysplasia as well as severe arthritis in other areas such as his hocks (back legs). He visited the vets regularly for check ups and to have his bloods taken as he is on a lot of medication, which you expect when the reach old age such as 12 13, but not a 4 or 5, luckily for us we have one greedy boy which makes it much easier to digest the different tables. We also took there advise and tried Laser Therapy and also Hydrotherapy.
Ozzy seemed to love the laser therapy and still does as the warmth feeling of the pain relief puts him straight to sleep. He also loves the water so adored the Hydrotherapy in the pool. However, it still seemed as thought he still was limping most of the time and not really getting any better.
One day I took him as usual to Biscuit and Baileys the hydrotherapy centre and the owner had just come back from a course up in Scotland, talking to the vets about a recently found Stem Cell treatment, which he thought might do poor Ozzy the world of good and give him a few extra years, hopefully pain free or at least reduced, also it would mean the laser and hydrotherapy treatments were working towards something and hopefully one day, the possibility of coming off his pain killers which would be great.
Anyway after a long think and discussion between ourselves and the vets in Scotland we decided to make that 2 and half journey to St Boswells in Scotland to discuss it further with the top vet Andy, who really did know his stuff, he put him on what looked like a small treadmill or very large scales in order to see where his pain was coming from, it didn’t take long to realise that not only did he have Elbow displaycia, but he also had arthritis of the spine which was very concerning and arthritis in his hocks. He decided then that he was no longer allowed in the water to swim in case of causing further injury to his elbows and decided to start the stem cell treatment. Which meant Ozzy had to stay in for the full day while they took the fat from his belly in order to harvest and create the Stem Cells. This took a good few months as he needed a lot of cells in order to put like a block around those arthritic joints, which would hopefully stop the pain (quite clever if you think about it).
In this time Ozzy was still on his medication and on rest as he had quite a bit operation on his stomach, he wasn’t too impressed with us either, don’t get us wrong he was happy to see us but he just didn’t understand we were trying to help him by stopping the pain in the long run, he cried all of the way home and was up and down most of the night with crying in between.
This was only for the first few days and then he was back to normal once the week was over, but had to be kept to lead walks only.
After a few months passed the vets rang to say the stem cells were ready, so we made an appointment with them and drove back up to the Scottish Boarders , this time Ozzy was only in half a day and didn’t come out crying as much but was just happy to see us and just wanting to go home, which is understandable, as he was still in pain. We were told to keep up with his medication he was currently on and to use the extra pain killers for the first 5 days, we also had to reduce his walks to 5 minutes 3 times a day, then 10, 20 and so on, eventually he was even almost ready to do 30 to 40 minutes 3 times a day.
Every 3 months after this Ozzy had to go and visit Andy the vet for check ups which he is still doing, after the first month it looked as thought it was working and then all of a sudden he was really bad again, but we were reassured that it does take a while for the cells to work around the dogs body, during this time we had 5 sessions of Laser treatment to help spread the cells.
On the first check up appointment with Andy in St Boswells we explained that the one thing we did notice is that all of a sudden Ozzy decided to jump up at all of our benches and grip anything that was there, he also thought that it was a good idea to take down all of our coats from our coat rack, he also decide that he would make hole in them all just in case he had missed any treats (naughty I know but this is a good sign in a way) Andy just laughed and said a few of his customers have said this, it meant the dog is feeling better. Which it turns out he defiantly must be as he measured his legs and monitored his pain from the previous time when he first went in and all of his scores had gone up (Amazing Result) Considering we were starting to panic that the treatment wasn’t working as he was still a bit limpy.
On our 2nd check-up visits Andy suggested to gradually reduce is gabapentin tablets slowly, as if done straight away it could cause him to have a seizure, which is what we did, then eventually we could also start to reduce his Metacam to as and when, his legs once again were showing an improvement and his walks were starting to get back to normal.
Unfortunately on his next check up Andy decided that it might be time to give him a stem cell top up as his back leg was still not quite right, luckily he still has a lot of cells reserved from his blood, we were very lucky to get him in so quickly as a cancellation had been made for the week after.
He is now doing treadmill sessions until further notice, in order to build his strength up, which we really can see improvements and Ozzy has now been signed off, until he needs another top up, which we are hoping will not be until a few more years, but we have found that he is less grumpy around other dogs which must have been pain related and is started to act like a puppy again, running around a lot more and playing.
A Year Down the Line
Here we are already into May, can you believe its been a year already since my little boy Ozzy had his treatment and we were running around like crazy people, going on long journeys back and forward from Scotland.
Ozzy is now 9 and still with us, which makes us grateful for everything Andy the vet did for him, he seems much better in his self, although don’t get me wrong he still has a view bad times where he seems to limp occasionally, but no where near what he was like before. He now is only having his Metacam when he really needs it and his completely off the gabapentin. His treadmill sessions are now every 2 to 3 weeks instead of once or twice a week and he seems to be enjoying life a lot more.
Never in a million years did I think a year later would we be able to go back to Scotland for holidays this time going on long beach/forest walks or that he would manage to climb Arthur’s seat and then after doing this he would have the energy to have a walk around Edinburgh city.
Sometimes the little achievements in life are the best and worse treasuring forever.