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Regenerative Medicine – a new horizon for the treatment of athletic dogs

What is Regenerative Medicine?

Regenerative medicine is the term used to describe a range of different veterinary techniques that use the body’s own cells to heal and regenerate damaged tissues. It can be used in both acute (sudden onset) and chronic (long-term) conditions, and is particularly appropriate for osteoarthritis (“wear and tear” arthritis) and soft tissue injuries such as muscle or tendon tears. The two most important Regenerative Medicine treatments we use are Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) and Stem Cell Therapy.

What is PRP?

Platelet Rich Plasma or “PRP” is taken from a highly concentrated blood sample that contains clotting cells (called “platelets”) and the fluid portion of the blood (“plasma”). The platelets are the important bit, because they can:

Summon more immune cells to an injured area, to clean up dead and injured cells.

Release proteins called “Growth Factors” which are responsible for tissue regeneration and repair.

Although the injured tissues will already be doing this, the extra “boost” from PRP is designed to speed up the healing process, and encourage better repair, with less scarring.

OK, so what are Stem Cells?

Stem cells are special cells within the body that have the natural ability to become any type of cell. Found in every tissue in the body including bone marrow, fat, skin and muscle, they are the building blocks of life itself. The potential of these cells can now be harnessed to grow new tissue to heal previously difficult or untreatable diseases or injuries.

Once inserted into a damaged or injured tissue or area, they will detect where they are, and help to heal that tissue. Firstly, they will do everything that PRP does (helping to remove damaged tissues and encourage repair), but they can then “top up” the healing by turning themselves into muscle, ligament or tendon cells to help repair the area.

Stem Cell Therapy is usually associated with reduced internal scarring, a much stronger and more functional repair, and sometimes even full regeneration of an injury.

Common Conditions PRP and Stem Cells can be used to treat.

1.      Osteoarthritis – a chronic and debilitating disease with no cure that often requires ongoing medical support with painkillers, anti-inflammatory medications, and sometimes even joint replacements.

2.      Soft tissue injuries (ligament and tendon) – there are an increasing number of dogs participating in athletic events such as flyball, agility, hunting and field trial work. These dogs, like their human counterparts, are more prone to suffering repetitive strain injuries on ligaments and tendons. Injuries to these structures can be difficult to diagnose and treat with conventional medical approaches. PRP and stem cells have been used in the field of human and equine sports medicine for some time with great success. It is an exciting development that our canine sporting athletes now have access to this technology.

3.      Cartilage defects – some genetic diseases such as OCD can cause problems with cartilage in certain joints. Stem cells and PRP can be used to improve the outcomes of conventional surgical procedures, allowing for better regeneration of cartilage defects after surgery.

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Can Regenerative Medicine help my dog?

If your dog has been suffering from arthritis, tendon or ligament injuries, they may be a candidate for regenerative medicine. Please call to make an appointment with one of the orthopaedic surgeons at our Nantwich hospital to discuss obtaining a full diagnosis of your dog’s injury and find out which treatment option(s) is best.

How is PRP obtained?

A small amount of blood is taken from your dog and is processed using a specialized system that concentrates the platelets and the plasma. Once the PRP processing is complete, it is ready for use.

How are Stem Cells obtained?

While under general anesthesia, a needle is inserted into the bone (most commonly the hip or femur). A small amount of bone marrow is collected and is then processed in less than 20 minutes. Once the processing is complete, the stem cells can be administered before we wake your dog up.

How are PRP and Stem Cells administered?

Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) and stem cells are typically administered by injection directly to the area of injury. This usually involves injecting directly into a joint, tendon or ligament.

Stem Cells are typically administered in combination with PRP for optimal treatment effects.

How long does it take to see results?

Results from PRP therapy vary depending on the injury being treated. 50% of dogs require a second treatment of PRP for clinical results to be apparent, but positive results are usually seen between 60 and 90 days after the injection.

Stem Cell therapy results also vary, but only about 10% of dogs require a second treatment of stem cells for clinical results to be apparent. Although there is often some improvement with a couple of months, the maximum benefit from stem cell injection may take 90 days to be seen.

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How long do the results last?

The therapeutic effects of PRP alone last between 6 to 9 months for dogs with mild to moderate osteoarthritis. The effects of stem cell therapy on dogs with moderate to severe osteoarthritis will usually show marked improvement for more than a year following a single treatment of stem cells.

Are there any side effects?

Because PRP and stem cells are harvested from your dog’s own blood and bone marrow, there are usually very few side effects from treatment, but of course we will discuss any risks with you before you decide on the procedure. Immediately after treatment, your dog may be sore from the injection but this soreness should subside within a few days.