For decades, older cats and dogs suffering from arthritis had few options aside from painkillers and anti-inflamatory medications. Pill therapies are costly, harmful to the liver and, at best, offer only minor relief for our beloved pets.
But a quiet revolution in animal arthritis relief is underway thanks to one of the scientific community's most controversial lines of research — stem cells. And Dr. Mark Gasaway's Yale Animal Clinic in the Heights, one of the few offices in Houston to offer cutting edge stem cell services for animals, is at the forefront of what appears to be a new era in veterinary medicine.
"I'd say about 85% of our treatments lead to our clients saying that their animal is more animated and more active," Gasaway told CultureMap in a recent interview. The veterinarian, who has performed dozens of stem cell procedures on primarily canine patients, noted that owners report improvement within several months and, in some case, as little as a week.
"I'd say about 85% of our treatments lead to our clients saying that their animal is more animated and more active," D r. Mark Gasaway told CultureMap.
Surgically speaking, the $1,950 treatment, which takes only a day, is comparable to having your pet spayed or neutered.
Your cat or dog is anesthetized while a tablespoon of fat lipids are removed. Adult stem cells are extracted from the fat at a small on-site lab using technologies developed by Medivet America, one of the major leaders in animal stem cell research. Once the stem cells are acquired and cultured, they are injected into several key joint areas — namely, the hips for most arthritic animals.
"Arthritis in dogs starts to happen between the ages of 9 and 15," Gasaway explained. "The earlier you catch it and the earlier you do the treatment, the better the outcome in most cases."
Adult stem cells have the unique ability to divide into a variety of cell types, including those in cartilage, ligaments, tendons and even bones. According to Gasaway's explanation, the stem cells contain specific chemicals that draw them towards damaged parts of the body. From there, the stem cells begin to multiply and replace the deteriorating cells.
"I graduated from vet school in 1975 and I've watched new arthritis medicines come out all the time," he explained. "In the end, they're often just another type of anti-inflamatory with results similar to aspirin. Stem cells offer a whole new way of looking at treatment."
In the near future, Gasaway predicts that stem cell research will make the longstanding reign of anti-inflamatory arthritis meds a thing of the past not only for animals, but for humans as well. And that's just the beginning.