Regenerative medicine helps achy pets

TAMPA, FL. — Don and Judy Schmeling consider their chocolate lab, Alexandra, a member of the family.

“We have three boys,” says Judy. “We like to say Alex is our girl.”

When, at age nine, Alex started having knee pain, the Schmelings consulted their veterinarian, who suggested regenerative medicine, in the form of stem cell treatment.

Judy says, “We decided to do it because she was still so young and had quite a few years ahead of her. We wanted her to have quality of life.”

Dr. Farid Saleh of Ehrlich Animal Hospital removed a small amount of fat from Alex’s belly, harvested the cells, and injected them into her knee during a same-day procedure performed at on site.

“You’re giving the body a chance to regrow tissue instead of trying to heal or manage the diseased tissue that’s there,” explains Dr. Saleh.

After a few months, Alex was back to her old self. She’s now 12 years old.

“Sometimes she acts like a puppy! It’s been amazing,” Judy says.

Alex’s stem cells were harvested when she needed them, however Dr. Saleh says it’s not a bad idea to harvest them when pets are younger and under anesthesia for a procedure like a teeth cleaning.

“If we could harvest something that we can use in the future to help our pets get better, it would be an amazing thing,” says Dr. Saleh.

Stem cells can be stored, although doing so often requires a third-party company, and there’s an annual fee. As for the harvesting and stem cell treatments, they average $2,500.  The most common uses are for arthritis, and injuries to bones and joints. Less often, stem cell therapy is used to treat tumors. And, research indicates that stem cell therapy may be an option for treating chronic diseases.

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